Why It’s Important to Take Relaxing Breaks During the Workday (and How to Do It)

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As ironic as it seems, improving your workplace performance  may require you to work a little less.

Taking breaks — the right way — is known to have a measurable effect on your performance. The problem is, our work culture disproportionately values the employees who spend the most time working, regardless of how productive those hours are.

If you want to achieve more, be more relaxed, and improve your health, you need to learn how to take breaks efficiently.

The Importance of Breaks

If you’re in charge of your own workday schedule, you should have no trouble finding time for breaks throughout the day. If, on the other hand, you work under a supervisor or boss, you may need to convince them of the benefits of regular breaks. Some of these benefits include:

  1. De-stressing: A break gives your mind the chance to decompress and recover from the strain of work, which reduces your overall stress levels.
  2. Morale: Taking a break gives you time to do something you enjoy, which boosts your morale.
  3. Energy: Breaks are also good opportunities to replenish your energy by consuming foods or beverages that help your brain operate more effectively.
  4. Exercise: On break, you can step away from your desk and get your blood circulating, which can mitigate the risks of prolonged inactivity.
  5. Idle time: When you take a break, your mind has time to wander — and that idle boredom is a necessary ingredient for creativity.

Taking a Successful Break

What separates a “good” break from a “bad” break? Here are some tips:

  1. Avoid marathon sessions: Try not to work for multiple hours straight without a break. Taking just five minutes to walk around the office is better than trying to maintain the effort for a whole day.
  2. Use the right substances: Ingesting certain substances can help you make the most of your break. The complex carbohydrates and proteins you’ll find in healthy snacks like vegetables and nuts can help replenish your energy; a little caffeine can also give you a quick jolt, if needed.
  3. Choose the right environment: Don’t take a break at your desk; it won’t feel like a break. Instead, choose an environment that’s calming, enjoyable, and somewhat different from your traditional work environment. Break rooms, coffee shops, and the outdoors are all good choices.
  4. Leave your work unfinished: It may be best to take a break in the middle of a task or project, rather than at the end of one. Taking a break early, while you’re still full of energy, may help keep your energy levels as high as possible. On top of that, it’s easier to resume an existing task than it is to start a new project altogether upon returning from a break.
  5. Be consistent: Take breaks as a regular part of your routine. Research suggests the best way to structure your day is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17, but this doesn’t account for daily variables and individual preferences. As you start to integrate breaks into your day, experiment with various patterns. Eventually, you’ll find a formula that works best for your personal productivity.
  6. Talk to a loved one: Spending some time chatting with a loved one during your break can boost your mood, especially during times of stress.
  7. Squeeze in some exercise:Stretching and walking are good, office-friendly modes of exercise that can get your heart pumping, boost your mood, and combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

If you follow these tips and get the breaks you need on a routine basis, you’re sure to see a performance improvement. It may take some time to learn which approach is best for you, but when you find the sweet spot, your productivity, morale, and health, can skyrocket.

Anna Johansson is the founder and CEO of Johansson Consulting. Follow her on Twitter  and LinkedIn.

By Anna Johansson