Everyone who has held a job should be familiar with breaks at work. Whether they are short, 15-minute breaks to stretch your legs, 30-minute lunches, or longer, breaks offer a small respite from the continuous workday.
There are plenty of different activities that constitute breaks – for example:
- A casual conversation with co-workers
- Checking your phone or social media for non-work content
- Taking a walk outside or around the office
- Having a snack or meal
But are breaks at work essential or even necessary?
Why You Should Take Breaks At Work?
There are many reasons why taking breaks at work is essential, each providing multiple benefits. Let’s take a look at three of these reasons.
- Your prefrontal cortex (PFC) needs a break! The PFC is the part of your brain that keeps you focused on your goals and allows you to keep thinking logically. If you’re not taking breaks at work for yourself, at least do it for your PFC.
Taking a short break allows your PFC a brief respite, which will enable you to return to your tasks with renewed vigor. Breaks help keep you focused on your goals and tasks, which keeps productivity up. They can also help to increase motivation and creativity.
- Moving around throughout the day is crucial for physical and emotional health. It is imperative to get a little exercise throughout the day – even if it’s just walking around for a few minutes.
Even walking for five minutes during your breaks at work is enough to help reduce the chances of heart disease, depression, obesity, and more. Being healthy physically will help you to be healthy both mentally and emotionally as well.
- Processing of information intake and reflection of internal thought
“Waking rest” – taking a break – helps memories form more readily and improves the brain’s ability to ingrain what it has learned. Read more about “waking rest” here.
Managing Breaks At Work
1. Accept That Breaks Are Beneficial
The first step is to acknowledge that your employees taking breaks is not adverse but beneficial for your company in the long run. While it may seem like getting no work done for a chunk of time is a negative, employees who are exhausted by early afternoon from working non-stop will be much more of a detriment.
2. Allow/Schedule Time For Breaks
Some workplaces stick to a strict break schedule – which makes sense, given that there is sometimes a small window to get everyone on their breaks. That being said, flexibility as to when the gap is taken should be offered to minimize the risk of interrupting an employee’s ‘flow,’ as mentioned above. Telling employees that they may take a break when they need to is preferable, as long as it is monitored and not taken advantage of.
3. Make Sure Employees Are Taking Breaks At Work
It may seem obvious, but reminding employees that not only are they allowed to take a break, but that it is actively encouraged will make them much more likely to do so. Some workers will push on with their work and not notice the time going by, therefore missing breaks – this isn’t sustainable for long, though, and they will better serve the company if they get consistent rest.
4. Provide Outlets For Relaxation
This can range from keeping a few board games in the break room to having a games room or specific areas for socializing. Anything that gets employees using a different part of their brain – as opposed to the critical thinking and problem-solving access.
While many companies offer breaks at work, the type available depends on the workplace itself. Here are some suggestions on how to take full advantage of your quick rest:
- Walk or exercise
- Leave the office
- Have a healthy snack/meal
- Have a brief nap (if you’re allowed) – if not, try some deep breathing
- Do something creative – like a puzzle or doodling
- Have a coffee or tea
- Create a to-do list for your home-based tasks
How To Implement Stretching Breaks Successfully?
To start stretching at work in your business, you may want to consider the following points to make sure that your regimen effectively addresses the injury risks most relevant to your employees:
1. Make Your Exercises Specific To The Types Of Actions Your Workers Do Throughout The Day
If no one is tasked with intricate assembly techniques or hours of typing, then stretches targeting fingers and hand joints aren’t relevant. Add stretches that will assist your workers the most and remove those that don’t make sense to maximize the effectiveness of your stretching breaks. By extension, you can make different stretching regimens for different workers if their job descriptions vary greatly.
2. Find Adequate Space
Make sure your employees have room to spread out when stretching. Trying to do everything on the work floor, depending on your setup, can be dangerous for workers if they bump into equipment or each other.
3. Make Stretching Breaks Optional, But Have Waivers Signed For Those And Elect Not To Partake
It is understandable why some employees may not want to stand around in a group and be led through a series of stretches, but if that’s the case, they need to indicate in writing that they understand they are opting out of part of the safety program.
The beauty of integrating a stretching regiment into your safety protocols is that the payoff is so gigantic compared to the cost – it doesn’t cost you anything to start as you don’t need any specific materials or outside training. Any costs incurred from the lost time are negligible compared to preventing just one injury. If your program is tailored to your employees and well-implemented, you should have another great and easy-to-use tool in your safety arsenal!
While there are many options for breaks at work, individuals are unique and must find out what works best for them. Try to note what sort of break benefits you the most – if you can continuously use it, your motivation and productivity will stay high.