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7 BENEFITS OF TAKING BREAKS WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

by Dec 16, 2020

We still need to take breaks while working (and studying) from home. It’s highly beneficial for our mind, body, and soul. Learn 7 benefits of taking several short breaks during your work hours, why it matters, and how to do it best. 

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…Including you.” – Anne Lamott

The idea of working hard is part of the American culture and mentality. We work overtime, take on extra projects, eat on our desks (when we eat), never taking breaks. We give our all. But this “work hard” mentality is not effective nor healthy. Without adequate daily breaks, our productivity, mental well-being, and overall performance suffer. We feel overworked and eventually, burn out.

Breaks are an important part of a productive workday. I know it may sound counter-intuitive, but part of the “work hard, play hard” mentality includes taking breaks. When we take breaks we feel refreshed both mentally and physically, so do not overestimate its power.

WHEN WORK AND LIFE WORLDS BECOME ONE

2020 has changed a lot in our habits and routines: we all work (and study) from home now. The distinction between work and life is now very thin: house chores, work assignments, work deadlines, personal responsibilities.

It looks like our work and life worlds have merged into one.  So it is important now, more than ever, to take intentional breaks and allow our minds to rest, refresh, and recharge.

With all the technology at our fingertips, there’s a lot of information coming at us at once. We are bound to suffer from ‘cerebral congestion’ if we don’t take short breaks during the day.

Working from home has its benefits too. Recent studies have shown that working from home can increase our creativity and productivity, and it has allowed most of us to cut down our commute time. Eliminating daily commutes has led us to healthier lifestyles. Most of my clients and friends will agree to that as they’ve started working out more since working from home!

However, if not managed well, working from home comes with a price. This study shows that employees work 1.4 more days per month when they work from home. This is more than three additional weeks of work per year. Yay?

Although having extra time can be great, the issue is that this increase in hours has added unwanted stress and anxiety as 29% of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance, and 31% said they have needed to take a day off for their mental health. Not good.

It is really important to find that work-life balance everybody talks about.

“Short breaks, even as short as 10 minutes, combined with lunch breaks will help you build a healthy work habit at home.”

THE BENEFITS OF TAKING SHORT BREAKS

Short breaks, even as short as 10 minutes, combined with lunch breaks will help build a healthy work habit at home. The same should apply to our children at home: they should be taking short breaks in between classes, just like they would do for their passing periods, and they should have a proper lunch break.

Not convinced yet? That’s ok. Here are 7 benefits of taking regular breaks during our work hours, 100% backed up by science, of course!

1. Essential for physical and emotional health – standing up and walking around, even for 5 minutes every few hours during the workday can lift our mood, combat lethargy, dull hunger pangs, and reduce stress and boredom.

2. Prevent decision fatigue – the need to make frequent decisions throughout our day can wear down our willpower and reasoning ability. Small breaks prevent decision fatigue which can lead to simplistic decision-making and procrastination.

3. Restore motivation – prolonged attention to a single task can actually hinder our performance. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!

4. Increase productivity and creativity – working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes our mental resources, and helps us become more creative with more “aha moments”. It also raises our level of engagement which leads to higher productivity. 

5. Consolidate memory– Downtime (daydreaming, looking away, waking rest) is anything but idle. In fact, it’s an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned and to shift its powers of reflection away from the external world and back toward itself. Memories are created and learning capacity increased.

6. Facilitate problem-solving – when we are not focused on in-the-moment activity, our deeper reflective states make meaning of what’s going on, connecting to the newly learned information and integrating the knowledge into our coherent narratives, working through internal conflicts and boosting problem-solving.

7. Boost learning – daydreaming may be seen as laziness from the outside, but from the inside, it boosts self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, higher level planning, goal driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion. Wow! Say no more!

“Short breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes our mental resources, and helps us become more creative and focused on the task at hand.”

As we all know, there’s a lot of information coming at us at once and we are bound to suffer from ‘cerebral congestion’ if we don’t give our minds a break.

The great news is that the brain can get in its downtime state fairly quickly. And just a few minutes – 5 to 10 minutes – is enough to give the brain the rest it needs to process, assimilate, and consolidate any new information, and refresh and reset for the tasks ahead.

Allowing our minds to wander or to switch regions of brain activity (by doing different activities as suggested below) allows the brain to renew focus throughout the day.

Make no mistake “taking a break” here means getting up from your chair – your kids too – walking away from your desk and choosing one of the following activities/suggestions:

1. Go for a short walk – inside or outside the house – outside is better!

2. Grab some water or some snacks.

3. Connect with nature or outside noises.

4. Call a friend on the phone – no texting or emailing! Calling! I’m watching you!

5. Take a mindful minute.

6. Listen to music. Extra points if you dance to it!

7. Practice your breathing – away from your desk! 

I want to stress the importance of getting up from your chair and leaving your desk!

Lastly, to make sure I don’t lose track of time and get my breaks in, I use the Pomodoro Technique when I’m working, or even when I’m scrolling social media. I set my timer to 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, I take a 3-5 minute-break, unless I’m in flow in which time I just quickly “restart” the 25 minutes.

Working from home is an adjustment for everybody, one that takes time. Having our workspace and our home space suddenly become one can be a difficult transition. However, taking short breaks during the day while working – or studying – from home can help us feel refreshed, recharged, more focused, and balanced.

As you take breaks, assess what works best for you. What helps you become more creative, motivated, and productive? What doesn’t work as well? Notice what works and what doesn’t because we are all different and what works for some may not work for you. Be mindful and respectful of yourself. You know yourself best.

Focusing on what matters most, let’s improve our communication and transform our interactions one conversation at a time.

 

With love and gratitude,

Miriam

 

 

 

P.S.: Oh, and feel free to share this post with anyone you think could benefit from it. It’s FREE!

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