Many of us spend a full day working. We intuitively know it can be hard to focus for a full 8 hours. It’s important to take breaks to help us re-energize throughout the day. The government actually mandates that employers provide hourly employees breaks for specific amounts of time. Yet, we often have a hard time taking the breaks we need. I am definitely guilty of working through lunch and not leaving myself enough time to even grab a glass of water. Today, I share some research and tips to help us all take those much needed breaks!
While there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done in terms of what breaks are the best, there are some things we do know that we can apply to make our work lives better. We know we need to recover after a long day at work or use vacations to help our well-being. But what can we do during the day to help us stay engaged at work and feel less exhausted? Keep reading to find out!
Lunch is important. We always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I would argue that lunch is pretty high up there too. (Honestly, do we even have to rank our meals?) You know that you need food to fuel your mind and body. But, much too often, we approach our lunch as just fuel instead of taking some time to enjoy it and take a break from work. I eat lunch while working all the time. However, none of us should be doing that!
Research shows working during lunch can cause you to have more negative emotions at the end of the day. Who wants that? I know that I don’t want to feel stressed, tired, frustrated, or anxious at the end of my day. So it’s time to leave your desk while you eat!
The way you use your lunch break is important. People who take a longer lunch break (20 minutes or more) and take the time to relax are more likely to feel less fatigued and more focused after lunch. Have lunch with friends who help you unwind. Meditate. Read a chapter of your favorite book. You can also use the time to learn something new! Feeling like you are mastering a new skill during your break also helps you feel more focused and less tired after lunch.
When you take that time to disconnect from work completely at lunch, you are more likely to feel positive emotions at the end of your day. So instead of being stressed and frustrated, you can be happy and excited! Win-win. You get to take a nice lunch AND you feel better at the end of the day.
In addition to lunch, employees often take smaller breaks throughout the day. This is when you stop your work task and switch to doing something else for a short period of time (15 minutes or less). There’s a couple of different types of micro-breaks that I’ll breakdown below.
Non-work related breaks are probably what you think of when you think about taking breaks. These can include things like answering personal emails, grabbing coffee, and taking a short walk around the block.
There have been some mixed results around non-work breaks and this is definitely an area that needs more research. Recently, researchers found that taking these breaks will help you feel more energized and less tired when you get back to work. These types of breaks are often necessary and helpful but I’d encourage you to think about taking some more work-related breaks too.
What is a work-related break? In a work-related break, you stop your work tasks to do something else that may help you in your job. For example, you might take 15 minutes to watch a quick tutorial on a new software program you need to use. Or, you might go chat with your coworker to improve your relationship. These activities aren’t necessarily your specific job tasks but will help you in your work overall.
Interestingly, some work-related breaks have been found to help employees feel more energized at work. Specifically, doing things to make your coworkers feel appreciated can help you feel more invigorated when you get back to work. It can be as small as thanking a coworker for helping you on a deadline the day before. Go make someone feel happy!
Additionally, when you take time to reflect on how your work makes a difference or brings you joy, you are more likely to feel energized. Try taking a 5 minute break to reflect on the positives of your work to feel that boost of energy!
Timing Your Micro-Breaks
When you take your micro-breaks is actually important for how focused and energized you will be when you get back to work. Interestingly, afternoon breaks are more likely to increase your work engagement. Morning breaks on their own don’t help. However, if you take a morning break AND an afternoon break, you will definitely see an impact.
If you only have time for one break (outside of lunch), you should try to take it in the afternoon. If you can take two, then take one in the morning and a second in the afternoon! You will feel energized, focused, and excited about your work!
In sum, make sure you are taking the right types of breaks to help your well-being in the workplace. You don’t need to just use your evening to recharge. Try to do it throughout the day as well!
Now it’s your turn! What types of breaks do you find the most rejuvenating? Are you motivated to try to take better breaks now? We’d love to hear from you!