Take a break and return to work recharged

Katie Smith
Katie Smith

The sedentary routines, musculoskeletal disorders and stress associated with the workplace present major health problems that increase illness and lost time while decreasing productivity. Stepping away from the desk and taking full advantage of breaks help to counter these problems. 

With constant deadlines and time crunches, taking a break from a project might seem counterproductive. But this is an all-too-often flawed perspective of employers and employees alike. Company culture frequently depicts break time as unproductive, and being away from the desk can result in negative repercussions.

On the contrary, breaks at work constitute a vital part of the workday that improve job satisfaction, productivity and the overall well-being of employees. In fact, people who break more frequently and use breaks to partake in activities in which they’re interested are more productive and experience fewer health issues — including headaches, eye strain and back pain. 

Research repeatedly has shown even brief diversions restore attention. A 2008 study conducted at the University of Illinois found that even a 40-second break to look away from your computer screen can result in a 13 percent increase in productivity. Short breaks every 10 minutes can result in a 50 percent decrease in fatigue. Moreover, mid-morning breaks were shown to boost concentration, motivation and energy. Positive associations of well-being have been correlated with breaks regardless of the length of those breaks. 

Attention drops after prolonged periods of focusing or performing a specific task, hampering performance. By taking breaks that allow the brain to momentarily disconnect from work, you allow the mind and body to recharge and recover. For recovery to occur, though, individuals should use the time to engage in activities that reduce the demands of personal resources from the task at hand. If you type and stare at a computer screen all day, you might want to stretch or go for a walk rather than stare at your mobile phone and check social media during your break. Engaging in activities you consider enjoyable during your breaks allows you to feel less fatigued and more energetic and engaged when you return to your task.

So, what are some ways you can improve your break?

Get up and move around. Intermittent physical activity promotes circulation, resulting in many benefits. Employees who take a walk, stretch or engage in other exercises during breaks could experience a more positive outlook and increased vigor while also experiencing decreased exhaustion and discomfort. 

Take a coffee break to socialize. Maintaining strong social ties with co-workers increases productivity. Joining in a small gathering in the break room to chat about weekend activities can improve employees’ passion for their jobs and performance along with their well-being. 

Sneak in a quick nap. Napping improves alertness, creativity, memory and productivity. Employees who take a 15- to 20-minute nap during breaks feel more motivated and have more concentration. A power nap also can significantly improve your physical and mental health.

Unplug and relax. Practicing calming meditation,  deep breathing and yoga offers maximum renewal in minimal time. By taking just five minutes to decompress and relax, you’ll relieve stress, lower cholesterol levels and improve creativity.

Long hours of uninterrupted work doesn’t necessarily translate into quality work. Efficient and productive work holds more value. Employees should take advantage of breaks not only as a respite from work, but also to improve their health. Employers should encourage breaks and remove the guilt for taking some necessary downtime. Employees should be urged to mentally detach and restore the energy they need.

Breaks keep everyone at the office sharp and energized, in turn promoting a creative and productive staff.