Many of us spend our work time sitting at a desk, staring at the computer screen, straining our eyes and wondering why we have a nagging ache in our neck and shoulders.
“We are all guilty of not taking enough breaks at work — or any at all,” says Doug Fleisner, sales executive at JRG Advisors. “A workday without breaks drains our mental capacity and lowers productivity; while taking breaks throughout the day is extremely beneficial, both physically and mentally.”
Smart Business spoke with Fleisner about the benefits of stepping away from your office or workstation to take a breather and recharge.
What impact can short breaks have on employees?
- It promotes creativity and passion. Even if you do not think of yourself as the meditating type, studies have proven that breaks during which meditation and mindfulness are applied lead to a boost in creativity, both in and out of the office. Mindfulness and meditation also increases your compassion and reduces your stress level, which could play a major factor in getting through your work day without flying off the handle at a co-worker, depending on your office environment.
- It re-focuses your attention and concentration. Did you know that the average attention span for adults ranges from 15 to 40 minutes? Everything that you do throughout the course of a day subtracts from your cognitive resources, which can leave you feeling like you are running on empty at times. Your attention span and concentration need to be rebooted at several points throughout a day. Simply stepping away from your desk to take a walk can actually help the brain regroup, get back on track and focus better.
- It trims the waistline. Who isn’t looking to trim a few inches from their waistline, right? Turns out a fancy gym membership isn’t the only solution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting up and moving around for five minutes every hour, which can lower your body mass index and help your waistline, too. Although it’s not rigorous exercise, getting up to stretch and get a glass of water for a few minutes is body movement and every little bit helps.
- It improves brain function with lunch. Remember mom preaching that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? A midday meal is equally as important. While taking time out for lunch increases productivity, it is important to remember to choose foods that don’t make you feel tired and sluggish. Recommended foods include fish, vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and even dark chocolate.
- It protects against job-related accidents. Exhaustion and fatigue are the two main causes of on-the-job accidents. Keeping yourself mentally refreshed and alert with regular breaks can help prevent clouded judgement and keep on-the-job accidents to a minimum.
- It promotes healthy and happy eyes. Constantly staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time can lead to a condition called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain. Taking your eyes away from your computer screen, phone or tablet every two hours for 15 minutes, and looking into the distance for 20 seconds will help keep your eyes, head, neck and shoulders feeling great.
What else should employees expect from taking regular breaks?
It keeps your stress at a minimum. Overloading your brain with continuous thoughts and concerns is not healthy. According to the American Psychological Association, taking time to step away, recharge and relax has a major impact on lowering stress and preventing work burnout.
Developing a ‘break routine’ will force you to stick to a schedule and improve your work effectiveness and productivity. Our thought process isn’t built to be continuous; it needs a breather as much as the rest of our body.