If you were chopping wood or building a wall, you’d take a break every so often. A quick sit down and a reviving cup of tea or glass of water would rest tired muscles and put some fuel back in your tank. But what about a job which wasn’t so physical? If you worked in a shop, in a call centre, in the arts, in an office or as a driver? Would you give breaks quite the same importance?
Many don’t. Some might think that if they keep going they will finish quicker and guarantee to leave at 5pm. Or a looming deadline might mean they think there’s no time for breaks. However, the truth is that breaks help workers pace themselves much better resulting in benefits all round. Leave them out and performance suffers.
We’re all human. We get tired, no matter whether it’s muscles or brain power that we are using. Even our senses dull after a while (sit in a rose garden and after a while you won’t smell the roses any more). Breaks keep you fresh. They give your faculties time to recover and save you from wearing yourself out. Push yourself too far and you could get exhaustion, headaches, lack of focus or sleeplessness. And what use is a burned out employee?
Feel that you can’t take a full lunch hour or shouldn’t stop for a break? Well just remember that you’ve earned it. Your breaks should be part and parcel of your average working day. They are built in whether you work part-time or full-time, are on an hourly wage or a salary. Stop feeling guilty – you’ve earned them.
Take regular breaks and you’ll be more alert and productive than those who start at 9am and work right through to the end of the day. Employers prize efficient staff who are good performers, not those who sacrifice themselves for the job and as a result produce sub-standard work. Breaks are good for you and your employer.
There are few rules about what’s appropriate as a break, except that it depends on the nature of the work. Your employer might have strong views on this, perhaps even including your break times in your employment contract. Or perhaps you can determine your own.
Either way if you are working at a computer, it’s recommended to take 5 to 10 minutes every 50 to 60 minutes. For others, 15 minutes every 90 minutes might be a good goal. And if that’s impractical, then just aim for regular breaks throughout your day.
You can take a break anywhere, although you get most benefit by making it significantly different from your regular job. If you work on a computer, for example, don’t sit at your desk checking emails. You need to get up and move around and give your body and eyes a rest.
Tidy it up, one break at a time.
And while you’re up offer to make one for your colleagues too. It will give you an excuse to be away for a couple of minutes longer.
If you work in a large office, walk round your department or up and down a couple of flights of stairs. If you’re working at home, walk down the road and back. Exercise is good for working off stress hormones in your system.
Put together a project that you can go to check on during your working day. In winter put out food for the birds and see whether any feathered friends are feeding. In summer grow plants that attract butterflies and go see how many you can count in a day.
This article has been kindly supplied to Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa by The Stress Management Society.
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