Most people know your most productive period of work is done at the beginning of the day – but the exact time depends on your body clock – why? because the hours you are most productive are driven by your circadian (biological) rhythm.
After a couple of hours of intense work, energy levels drop. In his book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles For Surviving And Thriving At Work, Home And School, John Medina suggests exercise creates a protein which nourishes the brain, so workers need to find ways of building activity into their day – it’s why Google has “walking meetings” and why there has been a fad of treadmill work stations, in-office bicycles and why some companies are now offering yoga classes to their employees at lunch-time.
“The lunch break is an essential part of recharging the brain for the afternoon ahead,” says work psychologist Averil Leimon. “Ideally, you need to leave everything work-related behind.” That could be as simple as going to a different area in the office to have lunch or, as Jane Asscher from advertising agency 23red does, give every member of staff a cultural allowance to spend on anything with “a creative element”. “It means people are getting exposed to new ideas they can bring into their work,” she explains.”Plus, they often go with colleagues so it helps people connect.”
The ideal working lunch then is merely focused on getting as far away from the desk-bound sandwich as possible – building in time to get away from technology and the expectation of an immediate response. Forward-thinking companies like Nike and Google have gone further, creating distinctive rooms where people can go to be quiet and think effectively.
Erin Falconer of pickthebrain.com believes only three to four hours of a working day could be classed as highly productive. The answer lies in only 4 hours of screen time, interspersed with other physical activities. Unfortunately “The traditional office setting doesn’t accommodate this because there are few ‘recharge activities’, which can be as simple as basic chores or running errands” she explains. This new model could work for bosses too. “Employers don’t pay for unproductive time and employees get to work in a pattern that adjusts to their personal lives. Just imagine, two hours’ work in the morning, an hour off then maybe two more shorter stints. You’d pay your bills on time, get your groceries in the daylight and be super productive at work. It might even make that gym membership worthwhile, too.