Your smoking colleagues are taking way more breaks than you

Taking regular breaks throughout the workday can help you be more productive and more relaxed.  If for nothing else, smokers find ample time to step away from their desks so perhaps, maybe you should too. 

A close shot of a man taking a puff of a cigarette and smoke fills the area all around him

Imagine forcing yourself to binge-watch an entire season of a series without breaks or commercials.  It sounds unimaginable and yet, people engage in a similar practice on a regular basis.  They believe in a false notion that continuous attention to their work for an extended period of time somehow contributes to productivity.  Not only is this difficult to sustain but it’s also inaccurate.  Let's explore the benefits of taking regular breaks. 

Why are breaks so important?

There are several benefits to taking regular or scheduled breaks while working.  If you find your concentration beginning to wane, a brief break could help you get back on track.  This momentary change of pace will also enable you to rest your mind and avoid becoming fatigued. 

Work-related stress can lead to mental exhaustion.  Taking your mind off a specific task or activity for a period of time enables you to decompress and prevent fatigue.  Once you’ve had the chance to rest your mind, you can then return to work refreshed, refocused, and able to concentrate. 

Give yourself an opportunity to absorb new information.  By taking a break, you give your brain sufficient time to process the material, and you can return to it with a fresh perspective.  This can lead to increased retention and recall.  It's similar to making a decision on the fly versus having an opportunity to deliberate on it first.  

What are the different types of breaks?

A break doesn’t have to be long.  Even if it's only for a few minutes, you can still reap a variety of benefits based on the situation.  How you choose to spend your break is up to you but there are several different types of breaks you should know about. 

Creative:  Take a moment to allow your imagination to run free through brainstorming, daydreaming, or even working on a creative outlet of some sort.  

Active:  Physical activity as simple as a brief walk or as strenuous as a workout can help to reduce stress and get the brain ready to concentrate. 

Sensory:   Enjoying a meal, a quick snack, listening to music, or experiencing other forms of media all are great ways to take a pause from work.  Even a nap or meditation helps divert your attention from work to a sensory experience or nothing at all.  

Social:  Having a brief conversation with a colleague is a great way to break up the continuity of the work day.  Taking a moment to make a quick call or connect with someone can help differentiate the pace of your work day.  

Smoking:  Consuming a cigarette somewhere during the course of the work day.  This normally requires stepping out of the office and into an area designated for smoking like a terrace or parking lot.  

Smokers don't neglect to take their breaks.

In addition to physically leaving the building to enjoy this form of break, smokers often enjoy multiple breaks of this sort throughout the day.  The average smoke break can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.  It's not uncommon for a smoker to take six or more smoke breaks over the course of an eight-hour workday.  This means that by taking six 10-minute breaks during the day, a worker essentially spends one hour on break each day.  This is likely in addition to their lunchtime.  

Are smokers less stressed at work?  Perhaps, especially if they can spend an hour less working each day.  

Are cigarette smokers more productive than non-smokers?  Probably not, but they need to be more productive considering that their lives, and thus their careers, will likely wind up being shorter based on what we know about cigarettes. 


People who take regular breaks likely enjoy the benefits of stepping away from work routinely.  Your smoking colleagues are no exception, and while they also may get to experience reduced stress or increased brain function, their lungs are likely suffering.  Taking breaks during work is essential but since we're largely aware of the negative impact of smoking on overall health, the type of break one takes is just as important.  Therein lies the paradox.