As employee workloads increase and employers expect higher productivity, many employees think that skipping breaks and lunches at work, or worse yet, staring at their screens to check social media during any break time, are an acceptable alternative to a healthy break from their work routine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, studies have shown that making the most of your work breaks can actually improve your productivity, satisfaction, and health! So, when you take your next break at work, put down your smartphone and try one of these ideas to recharge.
Work break tip: Stretch it out
For employees who sit at a desk in front of a computer all day or employees whose jobs include repetitive motions, moving and stretching throughout the day can help reduce injury and increase focus and energy. Try a few stretches like shoulder shrugs, back stretches, and leg raises to loosen up your muscles and reduce strain and tension. Download our Desk Stretches Handout here to get started.
Work break tip: Take a walk
Go outside and take a walk. Breathing in some fresh air, while getting some sunshine and boosting your vitamin D can open up your eyes and your mind. Walking improves your circulation, strengthens your heart and lungs and increases your overall fitness. Government health recommendations suggest 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, so take two short 15 minute walks on your breaks or get away from the office for 30 minutes during lunch and go a little further.
Work break tip: Breathe and bend with yoga
Ten to thirty minutes of yoga during a break can help improve your mood and mental clarity. The practice of yoga with timing breath and movement creates a different level of focus than that you use when sitting at your desk. Some experts even suggest that yoga will help digestion and decrease sugar cravings so you can avoid that sugary snack in the middle of the afternoon. So, salute the sun or try downward dog and use yoga to boost your energy.
Work break tip: Mindful meditation
Similar to the benefits of yoga, meditation and deep breathing during your work breaks can help clear your mind and boost your energy. In exchange, you may find that you see an increase in your creativity, output, and quality of the work you produce. You can start your meditation practice anywhere, simply find a comfortable location to sit, close your eyes and breathe slowly, focusing on your breathing as you inhale and exhale. Count your breaths or focus on the process to clear your mind. Practicing meditation in private and in a quiet location is encouraged, so close your office door, go outside or go to your car to make the most of your meditation break. The health benefits of meditation include lowering blood pressure, decreasing the risk of heart disease and combatting stress, so what do you have to lose?
Work break tip: Eat a healthy lunch
The role that nutrition plays in productivity and ability to do work cannot be understated. So many employees grab a quick, high-fat, high sodium, fast-food meal or bring a lunch and slam it down while working away and do not take advantage of the benefits of eating a healthy lunch and really focusing on the food that goes into your body. For your next lunch break, get away from the desk and savor some great food. Pack a healthy lunch the night before including foods like fish, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, then walk outside or go to another room to eat. Add camaraderie by eating with a friend, meeting someone new over lunch or spend some time with your mentor while you break bread together.
Work break tip: Give back
Doing good works and volunteering are not always full day commitments. Take your lunch hour and find somewhere to offer your time or energy. Reading to children, serving at a soup kitchen or making fundraising calls for your favorite charity can benefit you as well. Many experts note that volunteering is not only good for your mind but people who volunteer lead healthier, longer lives. So offer your experience, develop new skills, or build empathy for others while contributing to society in positive ways.
Work break tip: Take up a hobby
If you have always wanted to learn a foreign language, teach yourself to knit or study art history, a break from work can provide time for you to follow through and start that new hobby. Engaging in a hobby reduces stress and increases feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Taking a few minutes during the day to participate in your hobby can give you something to look forward to during your work day, help you gain confidence, and help you develop creative skills in ways that benefit you and your employer.
Next time your break time comes around, embrace it! Time away from the daily flow of work has benefits for not only you but for your employer. When you take this time, you will feel better and perform better. Breaks are good for you, just like practicing good ergonomics at work! At Healthworks Ergonomics, we want to help you and your employees lead healthy, happy work lives. Contact us for a consultation!