If I told you that almost 40% of workers rarely or never take breaks during their workday, would you believe me? Well, it’s true! A survey by Tork found that 39% of people never or rarely take breaks, even though 94% responded that they are happier when they do. So why, then, do so many people not take breaks? Itnux found that 22% reported feeling guilty or judged by leadership for taking breaks, and 69% reported other reasons such as having too much work to do, trying to get their work done as fast as possible, and having too many meetings scheduled over the lunch hours. The problem is, if you opt not to take breaks, you’re doing yourself and your organization a huge disservice.
Benefits of Taking Breaks
Our brains are designed to need moments of pause to function properly, the same reasons we need sleep. For example, have you ever found yourself stuck on one task, a task that should be quick and easy, but you can’t seem to dig in and focus? How about when you’re trying to solve a problem and feel the answer is right in front of your face, but you can’t quite get there? Those are significant indicators that you’re overdue for a break, and here are some of the benefits of doing so:
- Increases efficiency and productivity
- Improves creativity, critical thinking, retention, and learning
- Better mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes
- Re-energizes and restores focus
- Boosts engagement and job satisfaction
How and When to Take Breaks
Fortunately, no one-size-fits-all approach to “breaking” up your day exists. I like to say, “There’s a lid for every pot.” Your break schedule can be determined by how your work is organized that day, how you’re feeling, a routine you establish, or based on research! This includes taking a long break in the middle of the day, taking short, periodic intervals throughout the day, or a combination of both.
For example, I take brief, periodic moments of pause throughout the day to clear my mind and stretch in my office space, and I take a one-hour-long break in the afternoon to get out of my environment, eat, and breathe fresh air. An article from Harvard Business Review suggests that “shorter breaks are more effective in the morning, while longer breaks are more beneficial in the later afternoon.” If you lose track of time, try scheduling break blocks on your calendar. Regardless, how you decide to break up your day is entirely up to you!
What to do on Break?
The activities that can ensue during your daily break/s are limitless! But if you need a little inspiration, here are some suggestions for ultimate recharge:
- Have lunch with a coworker and discuss non-work-related topics
- Take a walk and absorb all the benefits that nature has to offer
- Find somewhere quiet to nap or rest
- Scroll through social media
- Listen to music or a podcast
- Go to the gym
- Read a book
- Engage in a little retail therapy
The advantages of taking breaks during the workday are endless, benefiting employees and employers. It is the responsibility of leaders to urge and foster a culture of taking breaks while also setting an example by taking breaks themselves. This approach encourages employees to take a few moments to recharge without feeling guilty. What are things you enjoy doing while taking a break at work? Share in the comments!
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