Stop Working to Increase Productivity

Our brains and our bodies run out of steam after sitting or standing too long at our desks, work stations, machines, counters or work sites. Excessive sitting, in fact, wreaks havoc with our physiology, and is a known factor for increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, depression and obesity.

Our metabolism slows after 20 minutes of physical inactivity, lowering HDL, which is the “good” cholesterol. And without some physical stimulation over an extended period, we tire, lose focus, productivity drops and opportunities for mistakes and accidents increase.

Taking breaks is smart business practice, though many people choose to work through lunch or avoid breaks. That may be due to deadlines and important projects, piecework, service coverage or because of a work culture that doesn’t encourage downtime. Many managers and senior executives often set that pace by not taking breaks themselves or by not encouraging their workers to take time for healthy movement, stretching or recreation time during the day.

According to a workplace study conducted by Tork, a leading global hygiene, medical supplies and health company, nearly 20 percent of North American workers surveyed worry their bosses think they aren’t working hard enough if they take regular lunch breaks. Another 13 percent worry that their co-workers will judge them, and 39 percent say that don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.

And their fears appear justified, in that 22 percent of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking. To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of employees surveyed said that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to go back to work.

Taking Breaks Increases Productivity

Smart organizations realize that productivity and quality are negatively affected when employees are more tired, stressed and physically inactive. To help mitigate productivity loss and employee burnout, they are making great strides toward changing this paradigm by encouraging employees to regularly stand up and move, stretch, walk or exercise during breaks and lunch and generally move around during the work day.

For some workers, it’s simply knowing the importance of getting up and moving for three or four minutes at least once an hour. That can be walking to get a beverage, going to another office or work area, or strolling for a few minutes. Proper stretching to loosen muscles and limbs is valuable, and encouraging individuals or groups to walk together at or after lunch or dinner promotes exercise, safety and teambuilding.

For good health, adults should engage in moderate physical activity at least 30 minutes a day. Many organizations now offer fitness, yoga or meditation instruction at the workplace, have fitness rooms, or subsidize local gym memberships. Companies also sponsor charity walks, runs or bicycling activities, team athletics such as softball, basketball, volleyball and tennis, and support personal interests such as swimming, climbing and dance.

Here are some simple and easy steps you can take to get moving during work hours:

  • Take daily breaks from work and go for a short walk. Over time, try increasing your distances or taking multiple short breaks several times a
  • Take a few minutes for some easy, natural stretching. Do this several times a day at your desk or in a private area, such as a fitness space. If you go for a walk, include a few minutes for gentle
  • Join a lunch-hour fitness program, or choose a time that works for you, such as in the evening or before work. Select activities that you can also do on your own time so it can become a regular part of your
  • Consider taking public transportation and daily walks to transit stops. Try to enjoy the walks and the fact that they allow you to be more
  • For those with disabilities, or medical or mobility issues, take breaks that are right for you and approved by your doctor. If you have a medical condition, you may be able to participate in or modify some of the exercises in a fitness
  • Support fundraising events with your co-workers for charitable causes that support active living events by training regularly with your co-workers; this can be good for both your health and for
  • Host walking meetings for small groups. Also, getting outside for a walk can invigorate participants, encourage creativity and reenergize everyone.

Worksites can encourage physical activity through a multicomponent approach of offering management support, physical access to opportunities, policies, and social-support programs. We each have to take personal responsibility for our own health and wellness. But when organizations demonstrate their commitment to employees’ health in the workplace, that benefit carries over out of the workplace, as well, and results in reduced absenteeism due to illness and stress, and increased productivity, morale, personal engagement and teamwork.


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!