Breaking Bad – a short story of breaks at work

Written by Mikolaj Skubina

Always on communications, multiple meetings and a constant inflow of new “high priority” initiatives make the modern workplace a real challenge. One has to care for relationships with colleagues and management while tackling their ever-growing to-do list. All of this takes a toll on the human organism, which has largely remained the same throughout the last 200 000 years, but during this time almost everything around us underwent a tremendous change. 

We have forced ourselves to obey the productivity cult and forgot the fundamentals of work. While physical work makes us literally feel the need to take the break, sitting by the desk suppresses this most natural need within us. How about learning how to pause efficiently.

 

Two types of breaks

We have become used to never switching our notebooks off, but as they need to be rebooted from time to time, so is our brain. Breaks help us to recenter our focus, lower our stress hormone levels and boost our sheer happiness. Still, it is easy to get them wrong. You should know how to pause properly and distinguish between two type of breaks. Both have their pros and cons and are important to our well-being.

‘Microbreaks’

Short pauses which typically last from 3 to 10 minutes. Do them at least once per each working hour. Use them to let your eyes rest (especially if you are already wearing glasses), unclench your jaw and stretch your upper body. 

During microbreaks you may take a short walk, chit-chat with a willing colleague or have a cup of water, tea or coffee (we suggest this order of preference).

If you are stressed, do a breathing exercise – there are multiple short meditations available. For starters, simply try exhaling deeply then inhale. This simplest of solutions truly works wonders, but may need just a little bit of practice.

Social media is a natural temptation today, but beware of the pit-hole it usually is. A quick catch-up can often end in a longer session. Make sure that you’re not wasting  this time to compare yourself to others. It’s easy (especially when working long hours) to imagine everyone being happier than you, but remember that you are only facing their imaginative online personas and real life happens elsewhere.

‘Macrobreaks’

Longer rests, usually one per working day. Make them 30 minutes or longer. Eat a proper meal and try to unclutter your mind throughout them. If you want to check your social media, now is the time (just make sure it actually helps you feel better)!

If possible, try a longer walk (preferably outside) or even a more intense physical exercise. Some companies offer meditation groups or even yoga classes. Regardless, it is always possible to stroll around the office.

If you can open windows in your building or stimulate the airflow any other way, do not forget to do that during the break. In order to make the most of ourselves, we need to have enough O₂ in the air we’re breathing.

Additionally, please remember that depending on your natural introvercy/extravercy you might prefer to either have some time only for yourself or use it to recharge while talking to others. This decision should be up to you and each person has their own preferences.

 

Culture of Presenteeism

Knowing how to rest beneficially, beware of ‘cultural presenteeism’ – the notion that you always need to look like you’re working on the world’s toughest challenge. It’s very easy to yield to this herd mentality and act in accordance with this, but please remember that each of us is a human and only robots can work 24/7. Your management should understand this as long as you can clearly define the benefits and time your breaks. 

 

Too many breaks will kill you

Yet, too many pauses can torpedo human focus. Make sure that you are not suppressing your organism’s natural responses by using too many stimulants (coffee probably tops the list for most of us) and act in accordance with them. It will take some time to learn your body responses, but once you do you will surely profit from it. Turn your mind into an ally and see how your overall productivity increases by making deliberate and conscious breaks.

 

And by the way, take a look at Timeqube, our awesome no-sound purely visual meeting timer that will remind you to take breaks after a productive work session. Go to  https://timeqube.com/ for more information.

For more tips on leading a mindful business head to: https://timeqube.com/posts/

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kasia101077

Nice article. Pauses are so important during the whole day of work, but – as you wrote – they can kill your efficiency, if you do not watch them and use properly. Thanks!