In the modern workplace, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important components of a hard day’s work: breaks. When it comes to productivity, quality, and even your own personal health and attitude, the simple act of taking a break can be a game changer. In previous studies, the simple difference of having a lunch break has increased employees’ desire to be an active member of the company they work for.
The tricky part is figuring out how to use breaks to your advantage as you navigate the responsibilities and cares of each day. Haphazardly replacing work with breaks is hardly a recipe for success. However, understanding the value that regular breaks at healthy intervals can have on your personal and work life can be an important first step in learning how to implement the lost art of taking a break into your daily routine.
The Art of Taking Breaks
Being knowledgeable about the necessity of taking a break can be a key factor in turning a seemingly endless, exhausting string of workdays into an indefinitely manageable workload. As already mentioned, it can help with not just your productivity, but also things like your mental health and creativity. In turn, this translates into better work as well. Breaks can also allow for more activity, leading to better physical health, and can help prevent things like decision fatigue.
In other words, taking breaks isn’t just an excuse to be lazy. A break is nothing more than a brief reprieve from work. It’s not copping out, and it’s not abandoning or even ignoring responsibilities. It’s a concept that managers and employees alike must take the time to understand, as this will help them resist the urge to treat proper breaks as something to be frowned upon.
On the contrary, a well-earned series of breaks — in moderation, of course — should be actively promoted by management in order to ensure that their employees are rested and fit to work on a daily basis. Managers should strive to see stepping away from work for a few minutes, hours, or days (depending on the circumstances) as a deliberate attempt to recharge and refuel.
In fact, a proper view of breaks in the workplace leads to both higher productivity and a greater feeling of value and respect. This is significant, as it is one of the top concerns for modern workers.
It’s also important to understand the distinction between taking a break from a specific activity and stopping work entirely. Sometimes a break can manifest as the simple act of switching between tasks. This has been shown to increase creativity and sharpen problem-solving abilities.
While the length of time spent on each task varies, no more than two hours should be spent on any one task at a time. When employees make a purposeful effort to shift to a different kind of work, it can be the perfect way to recharge their creativity while simultaneously maintaining their momentum.
Unplugging After Clocking Out
We’ve already covered the idea of workday breaks. These short, common breaks can manifest through a proper lunch break, stretching, and moving between different tasks to keep our minds rested and our momentum chugging along at full steam.
However, the proper application of taking breaks goes beyond any single work day. There’s also the common idea of “unplugging” from work when you’re done for the day. Genuinely disconnecting from your tasks when you’re done working is a critical element if you want to avoid long-term burnout.
The medical field is a perfect example of how the division of work and life can be extremely important. Nurses, for example, are encouraged to pay particularly close attention while on a shift, but then to specifically make an effort to avoid allowing work to encroach on their personal lives while off the clock. This allows them to function better both at work and at home.
Just as a clarification: This doesn’t mean you can’t work outside of typical work hours. In fact, sometimes it’s recommended. In an era where freelance and remote jobs are part of the business world, the 9-to-5 workday has become largely irrelevant for many professions.
Instead, if your hours are flexible, take time to discover what time of the day or night you work best. If it makes sense to work when others are resting, then do so. Again, just make sure to unplug from that work once you’re done for the day.
The Real Deal: Long Breaks
Finally, we have breaks that last for extended periods of time. It’s easiest to forget the long breaks or to excuse the need for them, as they demand the largest amount of solid time uninterrupted by work. However, the restorative power of taking several longer breaks throughout the year to recharge is widely seen as more than just a perk; it’s a necessary part of any successful career.
Without the chance to completely break free from the cares and concerns of the workplace from time to time, it can once again be very difficult to ward off long-term burnout. While they may be less common, it’s important to take the time to incorporate these long breaks into your work routine.
Using Breaks to Your Advantage
Taking short breaks every couple of hours, genuinely unplugging from work at the end of each day, properly utilizing vacations and longer periods away from work are all essential. Taking breaks is a critical component of both a well-lived life and a successful career. Breaks allow us to be healthier both physically and mentally. They also allow us to be more productive and creative, as well. The simple act of taking a break when you need one can be the key to boosting both the quantity and the quality of your work on a daily basis.