Many leaders believe that employees who aren’t working in person may not be working at all. There have been calls for employees to return to the office, even if they have been working effectively from home. But, is it really a bad thing if employees are taking breaks when working from home? New research suggests that it’s actually necessary to boost engagement.
We have talked about the power of breaks before, regardless of whether employees are working from home or not. But, breaks may be particularly effective for remote employees, who often feel like they are always “on”. Read more to learn how leaders can reap rewards by encouraging breaks for remote workers!
Why do remote workers need breaks?
While breaks are good for all employees, remote workers may feel more pressure to be “on the clock” for longer periods of time. Because remote workers’ office and home are the same place, they may have trouble creating boundaries between work and home. This means that remote workers may find themselves working in the early morning, or late at night, more frequently.
Because of the blurred boundaries between their office and home, remote employees may become frustrated by interruptions they experience during work hours. This isn’t to say that remote employees are less focused or less productive. Rather, because their work and home lives are more meshed, there are more opportunities throughout the day for them to clash. When employees experience interruptions from family at work, they can feel that their job is more stressful and less enjoyable.
How can breaks help?
Breaks can help remote workers to manage interruptions because they can alleviate some of the stress they are experiencing when work and life collide. But, there are particular types of breaks that are more effective than others. First, breaks that are focused on completing a life task can make remote workers feel less stressed. Remote workers may want to take a few minutes to take care of whatever is interrupting them, so that they can return to their work with a clear mind. If they are unable to do that, the incomplete life task might frustrate them. For example, if a child interrupts a remote employee to say that they are hungry and need something to eat, taking a break to prepare their meal helps to alleviate stress. When employees return to their work after completing a life task, they are more satisfied and engaged.
Second, breaks that are focused on self-care can also help. When remote employees take a few minutes to focus on their own needs, they may also feel less stressed, more satisfied, and more engaged. Often, remote employee will book meetings back to back, with no downtime in between. But, taking a few minutes to eat a snack, take a quick walk, or to engage in a conversation with a friend or family member can be replenishing. These two types of breaks – those for life tasks and those for self-care – are key to remote worker well-being.
What can leaders do?
Leaders should recognize that remote workers may feel like they are “on the clock” all the time. This means that they need to learn to mesh work and life together in different ways, compared to their colleagues in the office. Breaks are key to this equation.
So, if you’re a leader, let your remote employees take time between meetings, or at the end of the day, to complete life tasks or to engage in self-care. It’s good for everyone when employees are happier and more engaged. So, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.