Take a break. Seriously. It’s good for you. I don’t mean sitting at your computer typing emails through mouthfuls of salad. I’m talking about a proper break to stretch your legs and get away from your computer screen.
Although UK law requires that all employees take at least one uninterrupted 20 minute break per 6 hours of work, in many workplaces, there is a culture of eating lunch at your desk or skipping breaks altogether. Many employees feel they are losing time or will seem less committed by taking their whole lunch hour, but in reality, if you’re not taking a break, you’re probably not making the best use of your resources. So, whether you’re working from home or in a city office, what can improvements to your productivity can you trigger when you take the time to stop?
1. You get more done
The human brain wasn’t made for the intense, long haul concentration we expect of it during the course of a working day. All the decisions (big and small) we make fatigue our brain and decrease productivity. In fact, studies have shown that even a 5 minute break is enough to sustain concentration and increase productivity by an average of 13%. By not allowing your brain to take a break, you’re decreasing its capacity for creative thought processes and your work can suffer.
2. You’ll be healthier
Ever noticed how much better you feel after going for a quick walk? Taking time out to stretch your legs and get moving boosts circulation and increases oxygen flow which is a great energiser. Going for regular walks can help prevent dementia, osteoporosis and improves the body’s cardiovascular fitness. It’s also a great opportunity to explore your local area and discover new cafes and green spaces – as well as giving your Vitamin D levels a boost while you’re at it.
3. You’ll be happier
With the Spring weather coming out in force, there’s no better time to take advantage of London’s green spaces by spending your lunch time outdoors. People that regularly spend time outside report lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, the endorphins produced from physical activity can be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression.
4. You can practise mindfulness
There’s a lot to be said for putting down your phone/tablet/laptop and just ‘being’. Even focusing your attention only on eating your food instead of also tapping away on your phone can be hugely beneficial. Whilst multitasking can make you feel like you are hyper efficient, in reality, the human brain doesn’t cope very well with multiple tasks and struggles to switch between them. Singletaskers can actually switch from one task to the other better than multitaskers, and can also filter irrelevant information more effectively. So, use your break to focus on one thing only and you’ll be setting yourself up to be more productive when you’re back at work.
5. You’ll save your eyes
Remember the 20-20-20 rule. That is, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you don’t, you’re in danger of getting Computer Eye Strain – something that 50 – 90% of office workers complain about. Symptoms include physical fatigue, decreased productivity, an increased numbers of errors, as well as eye twitching and red eyes. Getting outside on your break will also protect your eyes from the overly harsh lighting found in most offices. If you can take a break and get out of the office and away from the computer screen, you’ll be saving your eyes and improving your work.
So if you think you’re too busy to take a break, actually, maybe it’s time to think that you’re too busy NOT to.