How and Why to Take Breaks at Work
We live in a society where a break time is not popular or even a shameful thing to do. Because you need to be busy 24/7, without breaks at work, to achieve something – or, at least, that is what they tell us since childhood. In fact, there is a thin line between procrastination and rest at work. And not many people understand the difference between breaks and lunches or simply don’t know how and when to take a break at work. The experts from Buffer.Com disclosed the principles of the so-called “science of taking breaks at work” explaining the causes, methods, and ways of getting some rest during your work day.
Why do you need to have a break at work?
Many “hard-working bees” honestly believe that having a 30-minute break for a lunch is for losers who are too lazy to work and achieve the success. In fact, such theory is fundamentally wrong because overworking and pushing yourself too hard can lead only to the sad consequences – stress, depression, extreme fatigue, and other serious health problems. There are, at least, 2 science-backed reasons why you need to get the time for a break at work:
Breaks is a medicine for a boredom (and lost focus)
Some may say that you are a lucky one if your work is boring. However, being busy and active throughout the work day is preferable comparing to those boring, seem-to-be-endless hours. Being bored for too long can cause a lack of focus that is necessary for performing a certain task in the most productive way. In order to avoid this condition, the experts from the University of Illinois recommend having a brief interruption for fixing the unfocused condition and reactivating the work goals. Brief mental breaks can actually help being focused longer than studying or working restlessly during an 8-hour day.
Daydreaming can be useful
Basically, a human brain can work in 2 modes:
- The focused mode – when a person is doing important or new things required the maximum concentration and cognitive function (like writing, working, studying)’
- The diffuse mode, more known as “daydreaming” – when a person is relaxed and not thinking too hard.
While the focused mode of your brain seems more important, it can’t operate properly without the diffuse mode. The recent studies proved that daydreaming may activate the brain’s regions responsible for the “wandering mind” that can help find an unexpected solution to the problem from the focused mode. Being concentrated for too much time can actually block this ability to “think outside the box”. While the short break times at work may re-charge your brain and lead to the more creative or logical solution of the current task.
When should you take a break?
Now you know that having no breaks at work can be more dangerous than productive. Also, it matters when you take a break throughout the day to be the most productive and full of energy. For this purpose, you can try one of 3 popular “work-break” methods:
Treat yourself with two 15-minute breaks per day
It is a simple but effective way of getting enough rest throughout an 8-hour work day. Plan two 15-minute breaks – the first in the mid-morning and the second in the mid-afternoon. Keep in mind that around 3 p.m. is considered to be the less productive time of day, so you can schedule your break for this period.
Get some rest using the popular Pomodoro Technique
If you are super-busy this method can the perfect method of scheduling the breaks. The Pomodoro technique suggests working in small bursts. You need to set a timer for 25 minutes and then take a short 5-minute break. During this break, you can stretch your legs, drink coffee, or just relax. After 4 Pomodoro sessions, it is recommended to take a long 30-minute break. Following this technique can be also beneficial if you belong to the type of people who get distracted easily and can’t focus for long periods of time.
The efficient 52-17 method
By means of the time-tracking and productivity smartphone apps, the recent study found out that the most productive employees can work for 52 minutes and then need to take a break for 17 minutes to go on in the same rhythm. It means that you can work efficiently no more than 52 minutes then your brain starts to slow down and becomes less concentrated.
How can you boost productivity during a lunch break?
Let’s be honest – you don’t spend the lunch breaks at work only for eating your lunch. Instead of doing nothing (though it may be helpful if you feel exhausted) you can spend your break for a lunch in a more productive way. Here is how you can occupy yourself during lunch breaks (besides eating – having a snack is essential):
- Take a 20-minute walk by strolling around your office building. A walk can clear your head, help workout a bit (especially useful if you have a desk job), enhance the productivity of your brain by improving the circuits, memory, and cognitive function;
- Read any non-work, preferably fiction. This occupation can boost your creativity and can relate to other people in a better way;
- Drink coffee. According to a recent study, you need to time your coffee breaks carefully. If you get up between 6 – 8 a.m., the best time to drink coffee can be between 9:30 -11 a.m. and then once more between 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.;
- Draw or just doodle. Another occupation that can make you more creative and inspirational. Also, doodling can make you more focused;
- Listen to your favorite music, especially the dynamic tunes. They can improve your motor and reasoning skills;
- Take a nap. Even a 10-minute nap can improve the cognitive function and decrease fatigue, especially during the night shifts;
- Exercise or meditate. If you need to gain focus and have more energy, you can do a 7-minute workout or meditate – whatever is preferable to you;
- Do a few eye exercises. If you spend most of your work day working with small details or staring a monitor, you may need exercise your eyes to give them rest. You can use the 20-20-20 technique. This means that you every 20 minutes during a work day you can take a break for 20 seconds, look at distant or green objects that are at least 20 feet away from you.
The last but not least recommendation – you need to stop feeling guilty. Bear in mind that occasional short breaks are necessary for the rest of your body and mind! If your boss thinks that you don’t deserve having them, then maybe it is a high time to remind him or her about the lunch break laws that give the right to all employees for a mandatory lunch break along with bathroom breaks whenever they need.
Try explaining to your employer that you can’t work without breaks and a long restless shift can worsen your productivity and makes you unhealthy. If the explanation didn’t help, go to visit a lawyer. Also, keep in mind that, depending on the employer’s policies, there are non-paid and paid breaks, so if you don’t want to lose money in vain, make sure to clarify what type of breaks are paid at your workplace.