Don’t be Afraid to Take a Break at Work

Nov 13, 2015

Success can be seen as a product of commitment, hard work and long hours. How you utilize your nine hours at work greatly impacts what you do in the remaining hours of your day. If you overwork yourself, you’ll spend more time sleeping and recuperating rather than enjoying life to the fullest. If you leave projects pending at work or plan excessively to the point of stress and exhaustion, you might find yourself worrying about work throughout the remainder of your day, instead of relaxing like you should be.

To maintain productivity, creativity and efficiency at work, you must take a break now and again. Taking a break at work improves the quality of your work, your physical and mental health, and prevents burnout. Employees who have lost interest in their work and feel drained and fatigued are likely suffering from burnout.

Edward worked very hard to support his family. He worked two jobs: one as a teacher, and the other as a call center agent. Six months down the road he started going in late, and eventually became very ill. He ended up losing not one, but both of his jobs. So take a break at work to ensure a long, happy career.

Benefits of Taking Breaks at Work

Whether you are working for nine long hours, or working two jobs to support your family, the most important thing you need to remember is to take a break. Taking breaks at work will provide you with the following advantages.

Attention Span Rejuvenated

Scientific research demonstrates how taking a break at work can help you revive your attention span and focus. Dr Alejandro Lleras, from the University of Illinois, believes that if things in the environment remain constant and do not change, then an individual’s brain stops registering them. So when you work at a task for too long, your focus will dwindle.

Creativity and Productivity Revitalized

Taking breaks at work helps employees to look at dull and routine tasks with a fresh perspective. A recent study conducted by John Trougakos, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, showed that job stress is costly for the employee as well as the company. Companies pay millions of dollars for the health care of their employees. The best way to decrease job stress, while improving productivity is to give employees short frequent breaks throughout the day.

Boosts Energy and Happiness

The key to a happy and energetic work environment is flexibility and regular breaks. Taking a break not only helps you get back the energy you spend on tedious and difficult tasks, but also gives you the opportunity to socialize with colleagues forming healthier relations and promoting a sense of togetherness.

How to Schedule Your Breaks Effectively

Just taking a Break is not enough, to gain optimum benefits you need to plan your breaks strategically. Experts outline the following three ways in which you can time and schedule your breaks.

Ultradian Rhythms

In a February 1995 US Army report titled Ultradian Rhythms in Prolonged Human Performance written by Peretz Lavie, Jacob Zomer, and Daniel Gopher, the authors discuss how an individual’s energy fluctuates in accordance with their ultradian rhythms. Through a series experiments he found that during the early morning, productivity and energy surge at 90-minute intervals, which are best operated with 20 minutes of breaks in between. This 90-20 minute cycle is a proven and effective method of ensuring that you are performing at your optimum level.

Several popular business and life coaches recommend 60-60-30. Work solid for 60 minutes. Switch gears if necessary and work another solid 60 minutes. Then take a 30-minute complete relaxation break – no work allowed. Repeat as many times as necessary. Get your most important tasks done in the first two hours of your working day. Take a break from work to rest and recoup. Then get back at it.

The Pomodoro Method

Another well-developed and researched technique for scheduling break time at work is the Pomodoro Method. It was developed in the late 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo. According to this procedure, you first outline the job that needs to be done, and then set a timer for 25 minutes. The third step is to take a 3-5 minute break. After four sessions of working for 25 minutes are completed, you need to take a longer break (15-30 minutes). These frequent breaks improve mental agility and efficiency.

The 52-17 Method

The Draugiem Group conducted an experiment to see how employees’ productivity can be increased, and came up with the 52-17 method. They used a time tracking application “DeskTime” and found that the magic behind exceptional employee performance is taking a break. The application demonstrated that the ideal work-break ratio is 52 minutes of operational activity followed by 17 minutes of rest and restoration.

Regardless of which method you try, remember to work hard, but also take a break. If you absolutely have to, let the break be to check emails or another light task.

Quick Ideas to Take a Break at Work

Try to distance yourself from your work space, especially the computer and phone, in order to receive the full benefit of taking a break from work. The following are a few healthy and beneficial activities that you can indulge in while on your break.

  • Go for a walk. It will clear your mind and let you breathe in fresh air.

  • Hit the gym. Or gym-like activities. Stretching out and doing simple exercise helps release endorphins, which reduce stress levels, promote alertness and elevate your mood.

  • Eat a snack. Grabbing a coffee with a colleague not only boosts your metabolism, but can also strengthen coworker relationships.

  • Get social. Pick up the phone and call a friend. Talk about after-work plans, tomorrow’s lunch date, or even what project you have coming up next at work.

Disown the Guilt

According to Assistant Professor John Trougakos from the University of Toronto, taking a break can induce feelings of guilt when seen as personal time while you are working on the clock. It is important to disown the guilt and realize that taking breaks at work only improves your output. So, take a break at work and boost your daily productivity!

How do YOU take a break at work? Coffee? Walking? A quick phone call? Share your answers in the comments below.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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