Break or Bust: How to Take an Effective Workday Break

by | May 10, 2019 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Author: Karen Tickner, CPT, ACE-MFS

In our super busy lives of work and home, it’s hard to justify a break when you have a lot on your plate. It’s easy to keep laser focus and keep on trucking until you get the job done. However, this style of working is unsustainable. We can’t physically or mentally work at full speed ALL of the time. If we don’t slow down and take a break, we eventually pay the consequences.

We need breaks. They are essential to our ability to keep working, both mentally and physically. Breaks give a moment during the day to replenish our minds, allowing us to improve concentration and attentiveness. In turn, those improvements lead to additional enhancements in motivation and performance.

So, yes, breaks are essential. However, how do we make our breaks effective when break times are often limited? Here are some steps to help you get the most out of your workday breaks:

First, get them on the schedule. Knowing that you have a break gives you a finish line for your work tasks. Segmenting your day based upon your breaks helps you avoid cognitive boredom, and allows you to work for short periods, instead of one long, exhausting one. Think of it like this: would you rather run a series of short sprints in a day, or run a marathon every single day?

When should you take breaks? Research suggests that you should take a quick 10-minute break every hour. Actually, they say every 52 minutes. Your body is not built to sit all day, and prolonged sitting could result in serious health consequences like high blood pressure, heart disease, and joint and back pain. Nowadays, many people consider “sitting the new smoking.” Breaks are essential for your health.

Step away from the screens. When it comes to break time, give yourself a break. Walk away from the things you have been working on, or staring at. Allow your break to be technology-free  to give your mind and eyes a few minutes to relax and be distracted from the tasks you have been working on.

While you’re up, grab a healthy snack or get a drink of water. Sometimes a recharge requires a little sustenance. However, that sustenance doesn’t need to come in the form of caffeine shots or sweet treats. In most cases, a healthy little snack will give you the boost you need to stay productive when your break is over. Looking for some ideas for healthy snacks? Check out what some of our coaches use during their work days here.

Get moving (and, if you can, get outside). Like we’ve mentioned, your body is made to move! Use your break time to get in some steps by walking around your office, or give yourself a moment to bend and stretch. A little bit of physical activity will go a long way toward getting your blood flowing and ramping up your metabolism. Even better, if you can get outside during your short break, do it! Getting outside, and away from artificial light, has been proven to raise serotonin levels, alleviate stress, and even help you sleep better. Do you need help figuring out ways to move around your office? Here are some easy ideas to help you!

If you can’t take a break as often as you like during your day, consider at least switching tasks often. Though not as beneficial as a true break, the change of scenery will allow your brain to stay fresh and your focus to stay strong.

Let’s be real, you can only work as hard as your body will allow you to. Taking care of yourself and taking effective breaks at work will allow you to stay healthy, happy, and productive at your workplace!