It’s common sense that taking a break from the daily grind is important for rebooting your mind and energy. But research shows that the way in which we take a work break, and how often we do, can make a huge difference to our productivity. The brain is a muscle that tires out from repeated stress, and according to researchers quoted in The Atlantic, the most productive workers take a 17 minute break every 52 minutes. Across a normal working day, that means you should be taking at least five proper breaks. Here’s some ideas on how to make the most of it.
It doesn’t matter where your workplace is located, getting a few minutes of fresh air and a change of scenery can work wonders on your mood and energy levels. Even if you’re just walking along an uninspiring pavement, take some deep breaths and appreciate how this short break from work is resetting your mental clarity.
We’re not suggesting you scoff a bag of crisps and a can of fizzy drink (your waistline won’t thank you, and nor will the sugar crash you get later on). But spending a short time making a cup of tea, your lunch, or a healthy snack – say carrots or crackers with hummus, or some dark chocolate and nuts –is an easy way to give yourself an energy boost. “The brain needs very specifically portioned amounts of food,” says Buffersocial. “Two very healthy snacks in between meals keep your brain plugging away at full speed.”
If you’ve got co-workers, make the most of that human interaction by timing a break to coincide with your colleague’s, and catch up on some social time. Often we don’t really get to know the people we work with, so even popping out to pick up a latte with a colleague can be a great way of forging new bonds.
OK, so 17 minutes doesn’t give you enough time to cram in a gym session, but you can practice a few great deskercises to get the blood flowing and prevent ‘sitting disease’. Try stretching out, using your chair as a support, walking around your workstation or practice better posture by imagining a pencil being squeezed between your shoulder blades.
Our ever-present phones means the way we’re taking our breaks has changed, too. Hands up if you’ve ever taken a quick respite from your hours of staring at a screen to… well, stare at another screen and check Facebook/Twitter/Buzzfeed? Yep, we hear you. But it’s no good – Research Digest revealed that workers who used their smartphones during breaks reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion than those who didn’t. So whatever time out you take, make sure it involves a screen break, and you’ll feel more relaxed.