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Breaks at Work: Why They Are so Important

Although the legislation in most countries proscribes a half-an-hour break during the typical workday, the quality of this break is questionable. Many workers don’t use the break at all or they spend it eating at their desks, still preoccupied with business issues.

Seemingly this issue has nothing to do with the employer because they have done their part; it is up to the workers to decide how and where they use their lunch break. All the major companies know that this is simply not true, as the HR department should monitor what employees do at breaks and if they take them at all.

In fact, the company should introduce more breaks, like a coffee break or 5-minute ones for fags to increase productivity, like coffee breaks or 5-minute ones for fags to increase productivity. Yes, you’ve read it correctly, the more well-timed breaks workers have, the more productive they will be, and here is why.

Work hours – smoosh hours

coffee_breakThe average American now works for 9.4 hours a day which is slightly more than the 8-hour average making the golden standard 40-hour workweek. Often enough, people work two jobs to make ends meet or they work long hours to make extra money.

However, the 9.4 hours we’ve provided as an example are mostly effective work hours, i.e. time without breaks taken into account. This means that those work hours cannot be as efficient as they would be if they used breaks. Namely, only 1 in 3 Americans admits to actually using the lunch break for consuming lunch!

An individual worker can punch in 12 hours of work today but unless they get a chance to properly rest (more about the quality of breaks in the next paragraph). The lack of concentration can lead to fatigue that can be deadly if the workers handle dangerous or hazardous materials. Even a simple office worker will not be able to focus after just one hour of non-stop work.

Take short but frequent breaks

One of the biggest fallacies about breaks at work is their length. Employees probably want their break to last as long as possible but in reality, the breaks should be super short. Apart from the aforementioned lunch break that needs to be a bit longer for obvious reasons, workers should be allowed additional short breaks.

The length of these breaks can vary from as short as 2 minutes (so-called microbreaks) or 5 minutes is not as relevant as their frequency. Namely, you should have a break from work at least once per hour. For workers who cannot afford to rest often due to the nature of their work, a 5-minute break every 80 minutes should still be mandatory.

Is a 2-minute break really effective?

A microbreak can be as short as 30 seconds but the most common duration is 2 minutes. This period might seem like much but this break still the brain enough time to rest properly. Sometimes, little distraction is good for the brain, as it helps us unwind.

During the 2-minute time frame, you have enough time to stand up and stretch. This will get your blood flowing and prevent diseases linked to the lack of physical mobility. What is more, 2 minutes will allow you to check your friends’ Instagram stories or your Facebook feed.

This action might sound trivial but social networks give us the precious opportunity to socially interact even when we are miles away from our family, friends, and acquaintances. However, staring at another screen during the break might not be a wise thing to do if you have a desk job.

Reducing eye strain 

For people who spend their workday in front of the computer, using their break to look at the screen of a smartphone or a tablet might not be considered as rest. Exposure to so much blue light emitted by the screen can become tiring after a while so a break is needed.

Optometrists from around the world recommend applying the 20-20-20 rule. You should make a 20-minute break every 20 minutes and look at an object that is at least 20 feet away from you. The problem with looking into a screen is that it is too close to the eyes, which increases the level of fatigue.

Napping at work?

If a boss discovers that one of the workers is sleeping on the job that’s the surest way to know they are lazy workers, right? Well, according to several studies and different work ethics in some parts of the world, the answer is no. Napping, especially in the afternoon help raise alertness by more than a third!

In places like Japan, sleeping on the job is a common occurrence. Working overtime places great stress on the entire body so a short nap ranging from 20 to 40 can help workers rest efficiently.

Although there is no room for napping during a typical 8-hour shift, long work hours should incorporate a break that will be used for a short nap. The profession of a truck driver, for instance, would be unimaginable without a short break from driving to get some sleep.

Office workers can also benefit greatly from a nap if they are working long hours so it does not come as a surprise that many breakrooms are equipped with dark cubicles furnished with a small bed.

Movement breaks

If you lead a sanitary lifestyle which includes sitting out your job for a third of the day (and lying down extra 8hours overnight), then you need to start moving immediately. The concept of a “movement break” is good for preventing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and last but not the least, depression and anxiety.

The simple act of getting up from your office chair is a movement break. It doesn’t necessarily have to imply that you’ve stopped working since a trip to the fax machine is technically a movement break.

Furthermore, you can stand up and use the backrest of the chair as a provisional exercise machine. The break room could have yoga mats for those workers who practice this Hindu philosophical tradition that involves mental, physical, and spiritual exercises.

Another way to reduce the negative health effects of sitting too much is stretching. Much like you stretch after you get out of bed in the early morning, you can stretch in the office to get the blood going and relieve the muscles. Finally, a 5-minute walk has the potential to improve your health.

Coffee anyone?

Coffee is a great reason to get up from your chair and take a short walk to the coffee machine to stretch your legs. People who cannot do without their daily dose of caffeine shouldn’t waste their breaks on going downstairs or the nearest coffee shop to get a cup of this hot beverage. Coffee machines like the ones Lavazza Office Coffee offers can be placed inside the office kitchen or breakroom. Workers will save money and get a chance to try different blends.

In fact, people from the HR department know that office coffee machines are a great way to boost the staff’s morale. Coworkers gather around the machine making coffee for themselves and others. In other words, they are socializing without the need to use their smartphones!

Staying motivated and goal-driven

Once you drink a foamy cup of cappuccino, you are ready to start working. Motivation and ambition are not innate for most people. In this sense, breaks are an excellent way to improve motivation because it is easier to stay focused on the business goals ahead if you take breaks regularly.

A typical workday comes with a set of challenges and elaborate tasks that require concentration and focus. If you’re feeling tired or drowsy, you will not be able to complete these tasks successfully, or even worse, you can put other people in danger. Just imagine how tiredness can affect an air traffic controller and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

Realizing your business ambitions and reacting to your business goals is not a single explosive event but rather a series of countless tasks, big and small, that are separated by meaningful pauses. If we take our minds off the goal for even a second, we have a better chance of reaching that goal in the long run.

Persistence is one thing but prolonged attention and focus on a single task are a different kettle of fish. Your work performance will decline and you will lose motivation if you don’t take frequent breaks. This is especially true for long-term tasks that take months, if not years to complete.

You cannot take a break from creativity

As more and more people work at jobs that rely on creativity for results, like the video gaming industry, the important it is to have a “pause culture.” A creative worker who is constantly stressed out and exhausted, both mentally and physically, is highly unlikely to come up with original content.

You’ve probably seen news stories about the splendorous breakrooms at IT giants like Google. The owners and managers of these companies are not super generous but they are smart enough to know that even the sharpest-minded worker is useless when they are tired.

That is why they throw in everything from game consoles to lazy bags so employees could have quality time to unwind so they would turn into a creative beast when they return to their workstations afterward. When it comes to manual labor, breaks increase safety, but for intellectual work, they are a guarantee of sky-high productivity.

A touch of nature

We’ve mentioned earlier how a 5-minute walk can do wonders for your mind but it’s not all the same where you walk. Pacing up and down the office can make you feel confined so you can step outside. However, not all people enjoy the cityscape so you should head to the nearest park to get back in touch with Mother Nature.

What is more, you can introduce nature into the office space. There are many houseplants that are easy to maintain for the office, like the Money Tree which is a succulent plant that doesn’t need much watering.

If there are fellow green thumbs in the office, you can create a communal garden and decorate the balcony so it would feel as if you are stepping into a jungle when you go out for a cigarette. Oh yeah, we forgot to remind you that plants produce oxygen which helps you concentrate better while purifying the air at the same time. 

Breaks can be bad as well

We have stressed the importance of breaks so much that you want to take a break from reading. We strongly advise you not to do so because you will lose your “flow.” The term is often used among IT to identify that sweet spot of Zen-like concentration that programmers attain. Once in the “flow” or the “zone,” they send their creativity into warp speed and finish tasks more quickly.

If there is ever a bad time for a break, then it’s the “flow” period. These outbursts of human energy usually don’t last very long and interrupting them almost certainly means that they cannot be restarted.

Once you become fully absorbed in the task and actually star taking pleasure from your work, don’t stop working! There will be plenty of time to get a cup of coffee once you complete the task you’re concentrating on.

In the end, we hope you now realize all the benefits of taking frequent barks while working. They do not exist as an entity opposite to work but breaks are rather an essential segment of it. In fact, if you fail to take any breaks, then you are not working at all but rather toiling for 9 hours a day.

As we have seen from the example above, you should move away from the age-old model of a single long break during the workday.  If you plan on working hard you must pause even harder; that is the only correct formula for success. 



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