You’re a hard worker, and you enjoy your time away from the office. But are you taking breaks at the office?
It’s important to take breaks and recharge your batteries. You might wonder how long should a break last or how many you should take.
Learn how to properly administer breaks for yourself.
When You Should You Take a Break?
If your breaks were based on attention span alone, you’d be stopping every eight seconds. Our higher brain function allows us to stay focused, but breaks should be regularly scheduled.
Your tasks and duties can range and vary requiring certain levels of concentration and consistency. If you can help it, take a break from your work at least every 90 minutes.
The US Army conducted a study that peak human performance requires rest every 90 minutes. Other studies disagree and believe that people should break from work every 50 minutes.
A social networking website conducted an experiment with its employees. The highest productive members would work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break.
The study also revealed the most productive workers didn’t work eight hours a day. The adage of working smarter not harder holds true.
Your work schedule and routine might dictate when your break falls in that range. With our short attention spans, it’s better to caution on the shorter cycle.
Big projects should have more frequent breaks to increase peak performance when you work.
How Long Should a Break Last?
Simply getting up from your desk and walking to the bathroom and back isn’t enough. A break should be long enough for you to feel re-energized.
The consensus seems to be that breaks should last anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes. The activity and tasks you’re performing will have a lot to do with how long your break should last.
Some practice the Pomodoro technique that calls for five minute breaks every 25 minutes. After four 25 minute blocks of work, you take a 15-minute break.
Too many breaks might be a distraction, but maybe that’s what you need.
People doing intense and tedious work might need breaks that extend past the 20-minute recommended break.
Your work might be enjoyable or less stressful. In this instance, a break of only 10 minutes might be sufficient.
Breaks don’t have to just come during desk and office time. Breaks might be needed during meetings or conferences. People have variable attention spans.
A host or speaker should pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues when attendees start to get restless.
Frequent breaks should be given so your meetings will be productive and not a survival match. For meetings and conferences, a 15-minute rest for every hour is great for the bathroom or networking.
How to Spend Your Breaks
Using the bathroom, getting something to drink, or doing absolutely nothing can be enough to help your brain and body find the relief it needs.
Workplaces often need better office ergonomics practices or break rooms to help their employees shed some stress.
As long as you’re not doing any work, it’s beneficial to you. Here are some other ideas for you:
- Take a short walk or climb stairs to get the blood circulating
- Find a coworker to talk to in the break room
- Sit outside (weather permitting) and listen to music
All these activities can help reset work focus. Make sure your break is something you enjoy. Some people use breaks to run personal errands. As long as your mind isn’t concentrating, you’re taking a good break.
Sleeping may not be the best use of your break. Trying to wake up from a cat nap can cause moodiness, lower productivity, and harm energy.
A lot of workers like to play games on their phones or send text messages. This can be a great stress reliever, but it’s better to avoid screens altogether during break time.
The concentration and problem-solving parts of your brain will still be utilized during phone use.
If it’s not lunchtime, you can still add nutritious food to help keep your energy level up. Make sure the snacks are small and healthy like fruit, nuts, or granola bars.
Does lunch count as a break? Absolutely.
In fact, there is a strong correlation between long lunch breaks and strong employee engagement with work.
Lunchtime is the most important break of the day because you’re refueling and resting. Don’t be afraid to take a longer lunch even if it means staying a little later.
What you eat also has an impact on your break. Foods with simple carbs such as potato chips, pasta, or white rice can you leave you feeling drowsy and sleepy after lunch.
Avoid food and drinks that spike your blood sugar levels because it can affect your nighttime habits.
Improve Your Decision Making
Don’t fall victim to decision fatigue. The longer your day goes without breaks, the worse you become at making decisions.
The willpower to think clearly will wear off and you’ll start picking the path of least resistance.
An Israeli case study showed that a judge presiding over a parole board released more prisoners earlier in the day and after snacks than later when he was tired.
While there were other factors affecting his decisions, mental fatigue set in and subconsciously started to sprint towards the finish line.
For jobs that require incredible amounts of discretion and decision-making at top levels, make sure you are getting sufficient breaks. Your job or business could depend on it.
Break For Success
Be a successful and productive member of your office by knowing how long should a break last.
Figure out your routine, and form a good break schedule that will keep your batteries at full strength.
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