Productivity is one of the most important, yet least understood phenomena of economics. However, it is really hard to measure, particularly for the service firms; even with years of hindsight, economists are never quite sure why productivity rises or falls. Technological innovations and management techniques are producing additional productivity improvements every day, but it seems that today more than ever, with an ever-increasing amount of distractions from all kinds of devices, it’s up to the individuals themselves to understand this and hack their own productive flow.

It could possibly be among the most commonly used words online; almost every social media or news platform is cluttered with different approaches to measuring and increasing your or your employees’ productivity. Everyone seems to be so obsessed with working and achieving more that they almost forget that the necessary condition for being productive is taking breaks. There’s a reason why almost every school in the world has chunked up its working time into small amounts called classes, and why these typically last somewhere between 40 and 60 minutes. The brain is “like a muscle. You can strengthen it or deplete it. If you let this muscle recharge and replenish, you’ll feel better mentally and see improvements in your performance,” says Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University, who studies job demands and employee motivation.

In other words – our brains numb out a bit after longer periods of constant stimulation, and we become unable to continuously treat the task as important. Taking a break allows us to come back to the job with renewed energy and a sense of purpose. Something as simple as a 10-minute conversation with a friend, or walking to the local store and back (many people reported having a creativity rush while taking long showers, too – so if you’re working from home, why not give it a try?), can give you a much needed boost, or point you in a new direction if you’ve been stuck. It’s difficult to see things from a new perspective or find new insights when you come at it the same way all the time. Taking a step away — literally or figuratively — might be just what you need to recharge.

In the office, if workers are frowned upon when taking breaks, they would naturally feel guilty for getting up from their computers every once in a while, even if they actually need it. This, however, probably won’t result in higher productivity, but rather in either secretly wandering through the Internet, or in a weaker performance at whatever they should be doing. Therefore, it is crucial to endorse a different approach on productive use of working time and let employees know that occasional breaks are okay. There’s a growing number of those who understand how extremely important working smarter is, and that it is far more valuable than working harder. In the long run, your business is most likely to flourish if you have valuable and hard-working people who are being well-guarded and pampered at the same time. Also, nowadays you can track and monitor when you or employees are most productive or when they have to take a break with office or remote employee management tools.

Providing a satisfying physiological working environment to your employees is necessary, but not a completely satisfactory condition. As much as this seems complicated for entrepreneurs who battle on multiple fronts, you need to put in the effort to look after the psychological factors in your organization as well. This is why people management exists in the first place; not to make managers act like a bad cop or anyone’s nanny, but to be able to see a bigger picture and synchronize this machinery made up of different individuals. However, don’t forget that the greatest workaholics are, after all, entrepreneurs themselves – so give yourself a break, a pause, or, to begin with, a simple stretch.

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