The 52:17 Rule; The Golden Ratio of Workplace Productivity Unveiled!

How do you define workplace productivity? Do you pride yourself on your determination and unflinching focus? Are you the kind of person who closes their office doors, puts on headphones, tunes out all thoughts, eliminates all distractions, and focuses on the work at hand until it is successfully completed? You might get stellar marks for self-discipline, I will give you that, but in no way does it mean that you are productive.

Just recently, the Draugiem Group conducted an experiment using the time tracking app DeskTime. While initially using the software to track the workplace habits of employees, they inadvertently discovered that certain employees were consistently more productive and creative than their peers, but surprisingly, they weren’t the ones who worked like a mule without getting up once from their seats. Actually, they were the ones who did leave their work periodically to unwind. DeskTime revealed the most optimum work to rest ratio as 52:17; this translates into 52 minutes of hard work followed by 17 minutes of rest. This golden ratio of work to recuperation is the key to maximum productivity.

For about 52 minutes, the subjects were expected to stay 100 percent dedicated to the task they were given. They weren’t allowed to check emails or sneak a quick peak into Facebook. When they started to feel fatigue at the end of their 52-minute slot, they took short breaks, during which they completely disengaged from work. This helped them to unwind and come back to their workstations rejuvenated for another productive hour of work.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the secret to maintaining productivity over the span of an average workday lies not in working longer but working smarter and taking breaks. The most productive people make the most of those 52 minutes by staying laser-focused and working fervently, but then they take breaks, and invigorate to prepare for the next 52 minutes of passionate work. In a nutshell, they work with purpose, and live by the notion that “whatever you do, you do it full-on”.

The study concluded that those frequent-break-takers got more done in a usual workday, as compared to their contenders. Well, this is backed by neurological reasoning. The human brain wavers between bursts of high activity lasting about an hour, followed by a small period of low activity, when we tire and succumb to distractions. When that happens, productivity flushes down the drain anyway, so it is better to take a break rather than try to labor through some task and get exasperated as a result, which will compromise your ability to make the most of the next burst of high brain energy.  

The study further concluded that those who took more breaks than suggested by the golden ratio of workplace productivity, were less productive than those hourly- break-takers, but still turned out more productive than people who worked incessantly without breaks.

 Why Is It Important To Take Breaks At Work?

It’s important to pepper periodic breaks in between your workday because of what will happen if you don’t. Your workplace productivity and creativity take a downhill turn. Your passion flares out. And you start working robotically. The truth is that humans are not programmed to stay focused 8-9 hours on end every day. In fact, research says that in an average 8-hour workday, only 3 hours are actually productive! Not taking breaks can result in a lack of focus, decision-fatigue, and damage to the eyes.

As science says, the only way to combat these negative effects is to take the right kind of breaks. Breaks help us stay focused, boost brain function, alleviate mental fatigue, and clear up the creative block. However, taking too many breaks, or taking the wrong kinds of breaks can make it that much harder to get back to work or stay focused. So, if you want to get more done, you should take effective breaks during your workday.

Taking A Break Can Really Affect Your Brain Functioning

As knowledge workers, we get paid for thinking, and our Prefrontal Cortex is where most of the thinking takes place, as well as most logical thinking, decision-making, and focus. This pretty much sums up what we do all day. It’s only natural that our brains want to rest as well. However, when we rest, our brains still aren’t doing nothing. In fact, a research conducted by the University of Southern California suggests that our brains leverage the downtime to forge critical connections that forge our social behavior and identity; things such as developing a code of ethics, envisaging the future, or recalling connections.

Benefits Of Taking A Break For workplace productivity

These hourly breaks unclog your thought processes and help you make better decisions. Taking Periodic breaks sparks creative ideas and helps you find new solutions.  Not to mention, it helps you stay focused over long period of time without draining your energy. Breaks also help you absorb and memorize the information you have just consumed. Not to mention, taking breaks every now and then helps you look at the bigger picture.

Taking Hourly Breaks Helps You Maintain Optimal Stress Levels

You might be of the opinion that the best environment to work in is a stress-free one, but this couldn’t be far from the truth. Interestingly enough, our optimal stress level, in terms of workplace productivity, is not zero. In fact, people reach their peak productive when they are under certain level of stress, yet not overloaded. So, whenever stress threatens to consume you, it is prudent to take a break to bring your stress levels down to an optimum.

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