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Why You Should Take Breaks at Work and How Long Each Break Should Be: Ways to Structure Your Workday

13 October 2022

All work without play makes jack a dull boy; the age-old saying couldn't resonate harder as breaks at work continue to be hailed as beneficial to both employees and employers. It is easy to prefer working continuously to completion when faced with an extensive task; however, this is far from the right strategy because the consequences may be subtle yet devastating. The Prefrontal cortex is responsible for thinking and keeping you focused; as such, it can easily be overworked, potentially hurting your decision-making.

Aside from the PFC, different parts of your body still stand to gain from not being glued to the same position for hours, toiling away at tasks with looming deadlines. The stress on your body can often leave you with physical injuries and hurting mentally. It is thus essential to take breaks from time to time as working for too long may end up hurting your mind and body. The case for more breaks is supported by research that shows the multitude of benefits that can be accrued from doing this regularly.

Some benefits of taking breaks while working

Better physical health

The first and most apparent advantage of taking work breaks is the improved physical health that you stand to get. With the recent rise of interest in ergonomics, the workplace has been identified as a significant contributor to employee health complaints. PC monitors and laptop screens can significantly damage your eyes with blue light and glare while also hurting your back when slouching over typing. In addition, the wrong office chair can have you sitting uncomfortably for hours, which can injure your lumbar region. Even your keyboard and mouse can injure your hand and wrists as you work, leaving you aches in your body, with neck, shoulder, and back pain the most common among office workers.

When all these injuries are sustained for extended periods, the damage to your musculoskeletal system can be devastating. Taking regular breaks can go a long way in helping your body heal after a long day of staying in poor postures. Whether you are doing physical exercise or simply relaxing, shifting from your workstation every now and then can do wonders for you. However, the FlexiSpot Pro Plus E7 standing desk is one ergonomic item that lets you shift positions regularly between sitting and standing for crucial physical movement. It is convenient when you move around the office when working as its programmable height presets let you select whichever height suits you while securely supporting your essentials.

Better mental health

Besides hurting your body physically, working continuously can severely impact your psychological health in several ways. You can accumulate a lot of stress throughout the day and feel drained at the end of long tasks.

Sustaining this for long periods can eventually take a toll on your overall mental health as burnout can occur and even depression. If your company is experiencing high turnover, look to the lack of work breaks as a potential culprit because employees can become overwhelmed. Scheduling breaks for them could have an enormous impact on their job satisfaction and numerous compounding benefits.

Moreover, there is mounting research showing that regular breaks from working can have the effect of ensuring employees remain engaged. Simply walking over to a friend across the office to have a little chat can work wonders for how you feel while working, as social interactions are crucial to well-being. Glued to your station for hours on end working on the same project can result in monotony which can dent morale. Instead of working tirelessly for 16 hours straight, try taking breaks at regular intervals of maybe four hours; the difference in your morale will be stark.

Improved productivity

Once your physical and mental health is improved, your productivity will follow. Experiencing pain in different body parts reduces your ability to perform at the highest level. Imagine having to prepare a 40-page essay in pain after you hurt your neck, working tirelessly the day before. You would barely get any work done, and even if you did, it would be a bad experience; avoid the pain by taking regular breaks and watching as your productivity soars.

Furthermore, breaking office monotony with periodic breaks can significantly improve your motivation to work. Whether getting a snack or chatting with friends, work breaks can leave you feeling rejuvenated and roaring to go. Moreover, taking breaks can help the prefrontal cortex, improving decision-making and focusing on the task. Working for too long without breaks could result in submitting a subpar work assignment, as the thinking part of your brain can become overworked. Instead of compromising on quality, include more breaks into your routine and witness yourself become productive at work.

Overall well-being for you and your employer

As was mentioned earlier, both of you can stand to benefit from scheduling more breaks into your daily routines. Having better health from work breaks regarding your body and mind can improve your life considerably.

Nevertheless, the benefits can even permeate your personal life as the reduced stress levels at the end of the day can leave you in a good mood while returning home. However, avoiding long continuous working hours can also benefit your employer as the company gains from your improved productivity. Better productivity can even see you make record sales for your company, which might get you employee-of-the-month.

Generally speaking, incorporating breaks into your daily work schedule can change your life for the better. Having seen the benefits you stand to gain, here's how to go about it.

How to structure breaks into your day

The consensus is that work breaks are necessary for you and the companies you work for. Regardless, there is no widely accepted duration or frequency at which they should be taken, as the numbers that work for some don't do so for others. However, some guidelines can significantly help you plan to include breaks in your daily work schedule.

Do activities that stimulate other parts of the brain.

The rule of thumb when taking breaks is to select activities handled by different brain regions than were being used. For instance, it makes little sense to set aside work involving solving physics problems to take a break from solving chemistry problems. The same region handles the two tasks, and trading one for the other would not allow the prefrontal cortex to rest.

While taking a break, it is thus essential to select activities that let the brain region be used to rest and rejuvenate before resuming the task at hand. If you've been thinking hard for a long, take breaks and do some light exercise, eat or partake in leisure as using the brain regions will result in the other resting. Deactivating the currently active brain region for a few minutes of relaxation can allow its faculties to rejuvenate for improved cognitive abilities.

Communicate with your employer

Despite work breaks being widely appreciated, managers still find it hard to agree with regular breaks, particularly in busy industries such as service. For instance, regardless of watching TV for a few minutes being acknowledged as a great activity during breaks, it may be a little harder to convince employees of the need for installing them around the workplace. Some may still think of breaks as purely for leisure with no benefits to the employees or employers. As such, it is crucial for you to first communicate with the relevant management at your workplace for guidelines on whether they are okay with it. In addition, some break activities may be allowed somewhere and frowned upon elsewhere, meaning you should concur with your employer before introducing yours.

Ensure you enjoy the break activities

It is easy to select a break activity you don't enjoy due to pressure from peers or workmates concerning what is right. Nevertheless, it is essential to ensure the break activities are tasks you enjoy because they will do a lot in helping you relax. In addition, it will break your monotony as your mind relaxes when you switch to doing something you like before returning to your work, rejuvenating your ability to focus and stimulating your thoughts.

Ensure the breaks are short and convenient

As stated earlier, there is no widely accepted duration for taking work breaks, as experts suggest you decide that for yourself. However, it is essential to ensure that whichever you decide, it does not last too long; otherwise, you will be wasting valuable company time. In addition, the management may be tempted to rethink its implementation of the break amenities. What's more, you should ensure the frequency and timing of your breaks do not majorly inconvenience your employer because it can prove too disruptive for implantation.

Ultimately, work breaks are hugely consequential to daily schedules as they accrue numerous benefits to you and your employers. Regardless, you should consider a few things to ensure that the breaks are applicable and suitable for you.