If you run a car too long, it will run out of gas. Turns out our brains work the same way.

Studies show that the human brain has a limited pool of cognitive resources. When you drain all those resources, you “run out of juice.” It then becomes more difficult to stay on task, and stress and fatigue set in—not surprising considering the average American works for 9.2 hours a day.

Two techs

Needless to say, your techs shouldn’t and can’t succumb to this sort of mental and physical exhaustion. In order for your techs to be as focused and productive as possible, they should have some sort of physical and/or mental break throughout the day.

1. Improved Focus

If you want your techs to stay on schedule, give them frequent (yet brief) breaks. It may seem counter intuitive, but research shows short breaks work great.

Studies show that “brief diversions” can lead to improved focus, and micro breaks between 30 seconds and 5 minutes improve mental acuity by an average of 13%. A recent study found that after working on a specific task for a long time, you slowly lose focus. For a tech, stepping away from a lengthy repair just for 6 out of every 80 minutes helps them focus on the task at hand and do a better overall job.

2. Less Pain

As a technician, sometimes twisting and turning into weird angles is part of the job—and it takes a toll on your body the more you do it. In a recent in-depth report about carpal tunnel, something fairly common among techs, workers complaining of forearm, hand, and wrist pain reported reduced pain when they took a short 3 minute break every hour.

3. Alertness

Allowing your techs to get some shut eye on the job might not seem productive, but consider the benefits: a quick nap improves alertness by an average of 34%. Even shutting your eyes for 10 minutes improves cognitive function, making you more alert. Another study shows that when pilots napped on long flights, they had a 16% increase in reaction time, whereas pilots who didn’t nap saw a 34% decrease.

While we’re not advocating for naps in the garage, giving your techs a longer break to recharge will make them more mentally and physically alert.

4. Higher Productivity

Shop floor

Working less means more productivity, says recent research.

A study in the science journal Cognition presents the idea that brief diversions from a task greatly improve the ability to focus on said task for longer periods, improving productivity. That means the longer you work on a specific task, the lower your productivity becomes. During long repairs that take up half or even most of the day, giving your techs brief breaks to grab coffee or read the news headlines will help them work not only better but faster as well.

Key Takeaways:

  • Studies show that workers are more likely to make mistakes when they work for long periods without a break. Studies also show that long periods of work result in reduced alertness, reduced productivity, and more risk for injury.
  • A worker who doesn’t take breaks might not understand their benefits. Or, it might be that they don’t feel they can take breaks without being criticized. Instituting a break policy can address both causes.
  • 1 in 5 employees say guilt is a huge reason why they don’t take breaks – yet another good reason to implement some sort of policy.
  • Techs who take a short nap during their lunch break are more likely to be alert later in the day, which could help with productivity during mid-afternoon.

As always, shop managers and owners should track technician efficiency and performance. That way, changes to break policies, etc. can be measured.