In our world of work, it is not uncommon to feel the need to be readily available at all times. “There is always more work to get done and not enough time to do it!” We hear this repeatedly! Because of the stress put on people to get so much done, we are working more hours and taking fewer breaks, if any. Studies have shown that only 1 in 5 employees will take a lunch break. Of those people, some are eating lunch at their desk while they work or not eating lunch at all. This needs to stop!
Leaders and managers are the people taking the fewest breaks, but should be the people setting an example and taking frequent breaks. If employees see their senior leaders taking breaks to recharge, they might feel more comfortable taking breaks for themselves.
There are numerous reasons for why taking breaks is important! Some of those are:
- Breaks from mental tasks improve productivity and creativity
- Skipping breaks can cause stress and exhaustion
- Eating lunch is important for our nutrition and health
- Mental concentration is similar to a muscle; it becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover
- If management allows them, short naps improve concentration
- We need full spectrum light; the sun’s light is important for releasing certain hormones, including serotonin
- Breaks encourage socializing, which builds stronger team relationships
- Creativity and innovation happen when we change environments
- Being outside and in nature encourages creative thinking
- “Mindless” activities enhance creativity
- Eating while working leads to mindless eating; mindless eating leads to poor health
- Desks/keyboards harbour high levels of bacteria; it’s good to get away for awhile
- Getting away from our desks and moving around helps prevent the onset of musculoskeletal disorders (from prolonged poor posture) and potentially deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be caused by long periods of sitting
- Breaks actually LOWER the duration of tasks, which lowers the risk of injury
- Prolonged exertion can fatigue the body and cause injury
- Poor posture can impede the flow of blood, impinge nerves, and injure soft tissue
Some tips to improve your breaks include:
- Incorporate movement into your day
- Try intense, 15 minute bursts, broken up with breaks; the thought process is not designed to be continuous
- Go outside!
- Take microbreaks of 30 second to 1 minute every 10 minutes to rest your arms, legs, back, neck and eyes
- Move the printer where you need to walk to it
- Stand for phone calls
- Alternate between tasks
- If management allows, sit on a yoga ball to improve posture
- Drink lots of water
- Think: Google Headquarters-style breaks!!