In Productivity

When was the last time you returned to the office after lunch and found yourself unable to concentrate, and perhaps a bit sleepy? How productive were you during this time? If you’re like most people, you’ll notice that your level of productivity varies throughout the day. Some of this is simply based on biology (your circadian rhythm), while the rest can be explained by a myriad of reasons such as environment, stress, or social conditions. Regardless the cause, our productivity rises and falls throughout the day.

There is a culture at most workplaces to simply continue working during these times of lower productivity. The typical 8-5 work schedule demands we be at our desk and clickety-clacking away at our keyboards during that whole time…even when we aren’t being productive. It’s just what’s expected of us. And there is social pressure to keep up that appearance. However, if we’re being really honest about this culture, how much productivity is being lost because we simply try and power through it instead of taking a break to recharge our batteries?

No one can be 100% productive all of the time. However, a lot of us can get closer to that ideal….if given the social permission to do so. This is why Pipeline Design & Engineering has instituted what we call “Mindful Minutes” at work: 15-20 minute paid breaks to encourage employees to stop working when they know they’ve dipped into the not-so-productive zone. We want to create a culture of doing the right things, even when they might seem a little unorthodox. In fact, we have created a goal for our team to log 2,000 collective mindful minutes this quarter…that’s 33 hours of paid breaks during the day when employees not only have the option to take a break, but are encouraged to do so.

Employees are encouraged to use these Mindful Minutes in any way that will help them un-knot their brains from the previous time spent working that day. Some choose to take a power nap, some choose to meditate, and others enjoy a walk outside. The power of these Mindful Minutes for us knowledge workers is transformative, and leads to a significant increase in productivity relative to what would be the case without the break. The following example illustrates this.

Let’s say you have 4 hours left in the day, and are starting to feel sluggish and groggy…

OPTION 1: you power through it, and can only work at 50% effectiveness (in other words, you really only complete another 2 hours of work)

OPTION 2: you take a 20 minute break and “lose” that workable time alltogether, but then spend the rest of the 3 hours and 40 minutes at 80% productivity (doing the math tells us we complete nearly 3 hours of work…in other words 50% more than had we just powered through it)

It’s not uncommon to find our employees lying down for 20 minutes in the early afternoon. We really believe in this stuff, and have put our money where our mouth is. We believe that paying employees for these Mindful Minutes will help cultivate the habit and culture of doing the right things, and in so doing increase our overall productivity and value for our customers. So next time you feel your productivity dip, take a restful break for 15-20 minutes, then go back to work – we encourage everyone to try this for themselves and see how they feel (except our competitors…they should just power through it).

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