Many people believe that being productive at work requires a lot of discipline. For me it is taking breaks from work which takes the biggest mental effort.
Maybe you can relate to this. Do you know when you get so carried away by a task and you lose track of time? Or when you want to finish whatever project that you have started so you push yourself to work more, even when your body could use a few stretches and your eyes a little break?
I am guilty of this. Often instead of taking a 15 minute break every hour, as I know I should, I write for 4-5 hours straight, because I am afraid of losing track of a thought or because I like the topic I am writing about and I feel particularly creative.
Later I pay the consequences. By the end of the day my neck is cracking, my eyes are hurting and I feel that sort of restlessness as if I have been locked up in the same room for the whole day, which, in fact, I have.
This past month I have been especially bad about taking breaks. Planted like a geranium I have sat in front of my laptop for hours. Big mistake on my part! I instead of getting more done, like I had hoped, my productivity has actually dropped.
Who would guess that to be more productive, we have to rest more and work less? Sounds too good to be true, right?
Then keep reading, because there is some convincing evidence that taking regular 10-15 minute breaks from work is the best gift you can give to yourself, your business or your company.
Taking Breaks at Work: 12 Reasons to Do it Now
1. It is good for your hips and glutes
No matter how expensive or comfortable your office chair is, human bodies are not designed for sitting at a desk 56 hours a week. Actually sitting weakens our leg muscles and causes permanent hip flexion. These are the downsides of comfort that can not be compensated for by a few hours of gym workout. But they can be noticeably reduced if we take 5-10 minutes a day to do this simple exercise:
- Stand up, hold onto the back of your chair and slowly raise your heels off the floor
- Stand on the ball of your feet then lower your heels back to the ground
- Repeat 25 times. For an extra challenge do not lower your heels all the way to the floor during the whole exercise.
2. You will feel more energized
Prolonged sitting in static postures impedes blood circulation. As a result, oxygen supply to our brain and our muscles is diminished as well. Do you know those times when you start feeling tired and distracted even though you had a good night sleep and felt energized in the morning? Well physical and mental fatigue could be simply an indication that your body is not getting enough oxygen. In this case a brisk walk outside and cool fresh air will do wonders for your well-being, energy levels and positivity.
3. You will maintain good vision
Our sedentary lifestyle and the fact that we spend a third of our day either in front of the TV screen or computer monitor, is one of the main reasons why more and more people develop vision problems. It is the price we pay for technological progress and there is not much we can do about it. What we can do however, is to make sure that we give our eyes some rest throughout the day.
The simple act of shifting your gaze every 45-50 minutes from your computer screen and looking out of a window can reduce eyestrain and help us to maintain good vision. Here are a few other things that could help.
4. Your heart will thank you
Researchers in many countries all over the world have come to the same conclusion –a third of people spend more than ten hours a day in a sitting position. And half of us do not leave our desk even to have lunch. Why is it bad? Because there is a direct link between the amount of time we spend in front of screens and the health of our heart.
Cardiologists believe that a small change in our work routine, when we set aside time for 10-15 minute breaks throughout our work day, can reduce the risk of heart disease by more than 60%.
5. You will boost your creativity
Very few, if any, brilliant solutions to complex problems or innovative ideas were born, while people were sitting at their desks and pushing themselves to finish a project. Usually you have to walk away from your desk and switch your mind to a completely unrelated activity like making a cup of tea, organizing your desk, meditating or taking a walk. These activities seem to turn off the rational part of our brain and turn on ‘out of the box’ thinking.
6. You will connect with people around you
Taking breaks at work is something that you can do together with your colleague. Not only is it easier to discipline yourself to take breaks when you have an accountability partner, it also offers you a great opportunity to connect and get to know the people that you work with better.
7. You will become more productive
This is something I have noticed and something that has been backed up by research too. It turns out that short intervals for relaxation allow us to sustain high levels of effort for longer periods of time. Therefore, by taking breaks we are not robbing ourselves of our productive time. We are enhancing our productivity!
8. You will cope with stress better
Focusing on the same challenging task or a problem for too long, will only lead to greater stress and analysis paralysis. When a project that you are working on becomes too stressful, take a break, distract yourself with another task and come back to it once you feel calm and collected.
9. You will enjoy your work more
I do not know about you, but I enjoy my work even more when it does not feel like I am working hard. If I can take a few minutes to savor my accomplishments, pause to eat a home-cooked meal or to meditate I usually feel a lot more enthusiastic and motivated to get back to my projects.
Small regular breaks are not only great for our productivity and well-being, but they also bring an element of fun into our work routine!
10. You will sleep better at night
First, you will not be stressed out because you have not finished everything you planned on. Second, taking frequent breaks during the day will lessen emotional restlessness and avoid burnout – an unhealthy combination that often keeps you tossing and turning and thinking of work even when we feel completely exhausted.
11. You will have a slimmer waist
Here is an interesting finding – a recent study found that regardless of how much exercise participants did, those who took more breaks throughout the day had lower blood sugar levels, higher metabolism and slimmer waists than those who sat at their desks for 2-3 hours straight.
12. You will feel better by the end of the day
Just imagine returning home from work and still having enough energy to play with your kids, to cook something delicious for yourself and your beloved ones or to plan a night out with friends. No pent-up stress, no headaches, no dry itchy eyes, no mental or physical fatigue. This is how we should feel at the end of the day. This is how we CAN feel by the end of the day if we make a small effort to add 5-6 breaks to our work schedule!
Do you allow yourself some time to rest between your work projects and daily tasks?
What are your reasons for taking breaks at work?