Studies have shown that taking regular breaks at work can drastically improve workers’ mental health and productivity. The simple act of stepping away from your desk and walking to the water cooler for example, is a great way to reset and improve your energy at work.
Experts recommend taking mini breaks throughout your working day, but just how beneficial are they? In this article we explore the benefits of taking regular breaks, how to promote a healthy break culture at work, and what the perfect break looks like.
What are the benefits of taking regular breaks at work?
1. Improves productivity
According to experts, encouraging regular breaks at work can improve staff productivity by giving the brain time to think about the task and stimulate new ideas, making the task seem less tedious. Workplaces that encourage regular breaks at work observe more engaged staff and less errors as a result of poor concentration according to reports.
2. Prevents burnout & relieves stress
Taking regular breaks is proven to alleviate mental health issues such as stress and prevent problems such as burnout.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and mass homeworking blurring the lines between home and work, burnout has become more and more prevalent in work culture. A recent survey by Tide showed that 40% of UK workers felt they had experienced burnout at work over the past 12 months.
Burnout can have ongoing effects on peoples’ ability to focus and their overall wellbeing, therefore encouraging regular breaks is important to ensure a healthy and stress-free workforce.
3. Improves company culture & collaboration
Having a space where employees can engage in conversation without the physical restraints such as desk partitions, or without the fear of their superiors thinking they aren’t focused, is an important way to improve company culture.
Studies show that companies with a great culture, that is, with a friendly, positive workforce who get along with each other, are more engaged than those that aren’t.
Allowing employees to switch off and establish relationships outside the immediate parameters of work is a fantastic way to keep morale high and encourage better collaboration.
Taking breaks at work: how to promote a healthy break culture
1. Create a designated break space
Having a space where employees can be away from their desks is important for them to get the most out of their breaks. Creating boundaries between work and rest enables the brain to switch off briefly and return to work refreshed.
It can be as simple as a designated corner for grabbing a drink and having a chat, or as elaborate as a café space complete with barista and beanbags. Personalise the space to your employees’ needs, bring in plants, some colour, a water cooler or coffee station. Just make sure it’s a comfortable space that enables colleagues to refresh and come back to work with energy.
2. Remind staff to take breaks
It is a common misconception amongst employees that their managers will think they are lazy or unmotivated according to surveys.
To combat this, verbally promote taking breaks to your staff. Send reminders via email and put up signs on notice boards to encourage breaks. Employers who do this will remove the stigma around taking breaks and create a more positive environment for their colleagues.
3. Make use of digital tools
With hybrid working becoming the norm, creating a positive break culture may have to take multiple forms, including digital. To promote a positive attitude to taking breaks, encourage the use of tools such as Slack or Teams and their status features to show when you are taking a quick break.
Once employees see their managers are making the most of their breaks, it will become more habitual.
4. Promote the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique has been proven to increase concentration and quality of work. It involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a short 5-minute break. Then, after four of these short cycles, taking a longer break of 30 minutes.
Recommending this technique to colleagues helps to structure their breaks and creates a systematic way of factoring healthy practices into their work life.
If the 25-minute intervals are too short, they can be increased to 90-minute intervals.
What does a good break look like?
According to research, a good break involves:
- Standing up / stretching
- Drinking water or eating a healthy snack
- Changing environments/position
We may be biased, but we think a water cooler is a great way to cover all your break bases, as it allows movement, drinking water, and a change in environment which are all elements of a perfect break.
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