I’m lucky to work at a place like Big Sea that understands that it’s good to step away from your desk sometimes – whether that be for a chat with a coworker or a quick walk outside. Hell, sometimes a break means taste-testing a new beer you’ve been dying to try.
Why, as an employer, are they okay with paying us for that? Shouldn’t we be filling our days with as many productive hours as possible?
They’re okay with it because they know something that you should know, too. Drum roll, please.
Taking breaks ultimately leads to higher quality and quantity of work.
Breaks help you concentrate.
Focusing on one thing for too long wears you out, kind of like the battery on your phone dwindling. Breaks recharge your focus, so you can work at full capacity. Frequent breaks mean that you’re never working at a less than optimal level.
Your brain is more creative when it’s relaxed.
Notice how your best ideas come to you in the shower or while driving? That’s because when you’re relaxed, your brain makes connections more easily. Not overworking yourself creates an atmosphere for creative connections to occur more frequently. You might even find yourself coming up with a solution to your problem while taking a leisurely work day walk.
Breaks are healthier for your body.
If you’re not taking breaks, you’re probably not moving around too much, and that can be detrimental to your health. Moving around by taking a walking break reduces aches and pains associated with sitting at your desk all day. In the end, that not only makes you more comfortable, but it might mean taking fewer days off to head to the chiropractor.
Breaks keep you happy.
Happiness is a byproduct of being healthier, more creative, and fully charged. Being happy at work isn’t just good for you, it’s good for those who work around you, the quality of your work, and in the end — your company. This also translates to less turnover.
The idea of taking frequent breaks isn’t an excuse to slack off. Of course, the problem is usually the opposite — most people feel guilty taking breaks or worry they’ll fall behind if they do.
How to Make Breaks Work for you
If you’re in the zone, there’s no reason to stop just to take a break. That flow can be more valuable than any break ever could.
While most breaks mean that you should put work completely off the brain and step away from electronics, it doesn’t always have to mean clearing your mind of any and all work related topics.
Here’s an example: Just as I decided on the topic for this post and began to write it, I took a step back and made a cup of coffee. While I was doing that, I passively planned out what to write in my head and that made it a lot easier to dive into it. Taking that break gave me no-pressure space to gather my thoughts.
There’s no one way to take a break.
Depending on which method you subscribe by, your break method may change. According to most ideologies, every 50-90 minutes you should take a 15-20 minute break. The science behind this comes from humans’ circadian rhythm, which cycles every 90 minutes.
Another popular option, The Pomodoro Technique, suggests working for 25 minutes before taking a 5 minute break. After 4 of those, take a longer 15 minute break before starting the cycle over again.
A study of productivity from DeskTime looked at the 10% most productive users and found that 52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break seemed to be the most popular and effective break schedule.
If frequent breaks don’t fit into your daily work, attempt to schedule them in somewhere. Aim for 15-20 minutes mid-morning and then again mid-afternoon. The important thing is that you find a place for them in your schedule.
It’s not enough to know how important breaks are if you never end up taking them.
If you are a manager or owner of a company, encourage your employees to take guilt-free breaks. A study by Staples found that among the ways to do this, providing a break room with healthy snack options, and keeping it properly furnished with relaxing seat options was the most popular.
How do you feel about taking breaks? And if you take them, have you found a method that works best for you? Share with us in the comments below!