How breaks help you get in the zone
The Agile Zone is brought to you in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Discover how HP Agile enterprise solutions can help you achieve high predictability and quality in your development processes by knowing the status of your projects at any point in time.
I’ve written a few times recently about the important role breaks play in our productivity at work. The general gist is that taking regular breaks allows ones brain to refresh and attack tasks with a renewed vigour. A couple of recent studies have explored how social media can play its part in all of this.
For instance, one suggested that a collection of breaks spread throughout the day and totaling just 22 minutes significantly enhanced the stress busting capabilities of employees. Interestingly, a second study found a similar impact from using social media to give your brain a break, but only amongst younger employees.
It’s clearly a popular topic as it has been the subject of a third study published recently. The study looked specifically at how mental recovery affects our ability to get into the zone, or a state of flow (you know what I mean, right?). It’s a pretty cool state to be in where everything just seems to come naturally and you can glide through your task effortlessly. In a work context this would no doubt be accompanied by increased productivity and employee engagement, so it’s a great thing to encourage if you can.
The researchers tracked the behaviours of 121 computer programmers, with each of them asked to complete a questionnaire each day over a 1 week period. These questionnaires were split up, with one delivered before work each day (to determine their rested state), and three more spread throughout the day to try and determine their state of flow.
The hypothesis was that the more rested a person was, the greater chance they would experience flow throughout the day. What’s more, they also expected there to be a U shaped pattern of flow, with the highest chance being in either the morning or evening, with a post lunch slump in the middle of the day.
Suffice to say, the study wasn’t all that exhaustive and the time frame used was rather small, but nevertheless, the study found that the more relaxed and refreshed the person was, the greater level of flow they experienced that day at work.
It also emerged that when the programmer was not refreshed to begin the day, that post-lunch lull would effectively do it for them, with further decline as the day progressed rather than the recovery later on that their refreshed colleagues experienced.
Whilst the study isn’t exhaustive (sorry) on its own, it does add to the growing library of resources highlighting the importance of rest and recuperation to our professional performance. Sadly, things like allowing sleep breaks are largely frowned upon, whilst there is still significant resistance to social media usage at work.
“Practically speaking, our study highlights that to experience flow it is important to recover well during non-work time,” they write in the Journal of Applied Psychology, “research suggests that leisure time experiences such as relaxation help people to recover.”
Maybe that should apply in work as well as outside it.