The power of taking breaks: boosting mental health and productivity

Research shows taking breaks is not a luxury but a necessity for wellbeing and productivity.

In our fast-paced work culture, it’s easy to fall into the trap of continuous work, always being available and not pausing for a break. However, research shows taking breaks is not a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity for both mental health and productivity.

Charlie Waller Workplace Consultant Dr Mike Oliver, a health psychologist and creator of the “Importance of Taking Breaks” webinar, emphasises the importance of incorporating meaningful breaks into our workdays. He points out there are both physical and psychological consequences to not taking breaks.

“Those who have a sedentary role and do not take meaningful breaks are more likely to experience weight gain, heart disease or diabetes,” says Mike.

“From a psychological perspective, people who do take meaningful breaks during their working day are more likely to have better mood, experience better wellbeing and be less tired.”


Strong business case

The benefits of breaks extend beyond individual health and wellbeing – they also impact workplace productivity and Mike highlights there is a strong business case for organisations to be serious about taking breaks.

Research reported by Business News Daily shows people who take breaks are more likely to be more productive and more motivated in their roles, with 85% of employees surveyed believing taking breaks during the day promoted their productivity.


Challenges to taking breaks

However, incorporating breaks into our work routines can be challenging and it is important to understand that people’s behaviours towards taking break depends on various factors, as Mike explains:

“We need to acknowledge that sometimes work and deadlines do get in the way of taking breaks and our behaviour towards taking breaks can be mixed.

“The influence of social and work relationships is key. If your colleagues take breaks, then you are more likely to yourself and vice-versa. For example, colleagues scheduling meetings at lunchtime tends to take priority over taking a proper lunch break away from the office.


Woman sits at laptop looking stressed

Managers' behaviour

“A manager’s behaviour will also exert influence: employees are more likely to take a break if they see their manager or other senior leaders doing the same.”

Many people consider they’re having a break if they stay at their desk, perhaps catching up on a few ‘easy’ emails. This isn’t a meaningful break, and you are much more likely to be collared by a colleague for “just a quick question”.  Mike advises: “If you can, get away from your workspace completely to reap the benefits of a break.”


Home working

The shift to remote home working during and after Covid has introduced new dynamic to break-taking behaviours. Many people say they experience guilt around not being at their desk all the time.

This has led to people not taking as many breaks as they used to when they were at their usual place of work because at home those social prompts of “when are you taking your lunch break?” are harder to create.


Make plans with colleagues

Based on his own experience, Mike says: “Most people know taking a break will be good for them but often find lunch time has passed them by and they have worked all the way through to home time.

“A way to combat this is to involve a colleague, makes plans to go for a coffee or a walk, encourage each other and make taking a break a habit.”

Managers play a vital in encouraging their team members to take a break – a reminder from the boss to take a break can work well.  Mike says: “When you are in a managerial role what you do really counts – if you take a break your team are more likely to take a break too. Encouraging your team to take a break but not taking one yourself doesn’t count!”

Taking regular breaks is vital to maintaining good mental health, making work more productive and preventing burnout. By prioritising breaks and creating a supportive environment, organisations can increase productivity.


Further information

If you are interested in attending our webinar, ‘The Importance of Taking Breaks’ please contact for further information.