Effective Breaks

By: Chelsy Swackhamer

You’ve been working non-stop for the past 3 hours, and you decide you could use a little break. What do you do? Do you go for some coffee, talk to a colleague, scroll through social media, or spend time standing and stretching? In order to maximize our break time we need to know, how we take breaks and when to take a break. With little time to waste during a day it's important we really utilize this time.

When to take a break.

But what type of break should you be taking? A study done by the University of Illinois recommends taking a break every hour. However the reality is not everybody has the ability to take a break every hour. Heck, majority of us have meetings that are 2-3 hours long. And while it would be great to get your entire meeting group to take a break together, that can be a challenge.

A study by Staples claimed that, 66% of employees spend more than 8 hours a day at work, and quarter of them don’t even take a break for lunch? Crazy, right? How can one be so busy or stressed, they can't find time for food? What this survey continues to talk about is, how 1 in 5 respondents claims guilt as the reason they don’t step away from their desk. This creates a negative work environment, and a toxic work culture. But there are many workplaces just like this, where taking a break is percieved as being "lazy" or "not working hard".

When the truth is, there are so many reasons on why to take breaks. Breaks improve our focus, productivity, energy levels, and mood. While also, reduce our stress levels, risk of error, and musculoskeletal pain. If we don't take time for ourselves, it can quickly become impossible to take care of everything else. 

What is best for you?

With all the different strategies out there, how do you choose what is best for you? With different jobs, positions, and schedules, taking breaks isn't a "one size fits all" approach. Employees need breaks at different times and different moments in the day, that fit them and their work-style. Here are some of the most popular break techniques for a more productive day.

  • The Pomodoro Technique. - The Pomodoro Method focuses on working in small bursts. It believes in setting a timer to take a break every 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. 
  • The 90-Minute Pattern - The 90-Minute Pattern was created to maximize productivity by taking a 20 minute break every 90 minutes. 
  • 52-17 Method - The 52-17 method focuses on working for 52 minutes and taking a break for 17. This method believes people get the most done in short amounts of time.
  • 2 x 15-minute - If you have a busy schedule or an unflexible schedule, it can be good to just schedule two 15-minute breaks. These breaks are preferable in the mid-morning and the mid afternoon. 

Guidelines For Breaks

Now that you have some ideas of when to take breaks. Here are some great guidelines on taking breaks at work.

  1. Breaks should be included in the working time. They should reduce the total workload, i.e. the introduction of breaks should not re­sult in a higher intensity or pace of work.
  2. Breaks should be taken when performance and productivity are still close to maximum and before the user starts to get tired. This is better than taking a break to recover from considerable fatigue. Appropriate timing of the break is probably more important than the length of the break.
  3. Short and frequent breaks are more effec­tive than occasional, longer breaks: for ex­ample, a 2-5 minute break after 30 min of work is more beneficial than a 15-20 minute break every 2 hours.
  4. Employees should be allowed some discre­tion when to take breaks and how to carry out tasks wherever practical. Individual con­trol over the nature and pace of work allows for distribution of effort over the working day that considers differences between individu­als.
  5. Changes of activity and posture appear to be more effective than formal rest breaks in relieving visual fatigue.
  6. Breaks should be taken away from the work­station, and give employees the possibility to stand up, move about, and change posture.

Curious if Smart Break is the right fit for your company? Try Smart Break, and see the positive effects on your employees.



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