There is a reason that coffee breaks are mandated by law. Not long ago I wrote about the necessity for vacations. I wrote that we all need breaks and that by taking our vacations it makes us better employees. The same concept is DEFINITELY true when it comes to taking breaks during each individual work day.
Now, I must admit that in this area I am not very good at setting an example and this would count as a “Do as I say, not as I do” moment. I am the first to admit that when I am at work, I am completely at work… usually for between 9.5 and 10 hours daily. I do eat my lunch, but always while sitting at my computer (once or twice a week I will allow myself to break away from my work at that point and read the news or surf random pages on the internet (or check up on my blog)). However, most of the time I am continuing to work on work-related paperwork/ emails/ etc. I will take short breaks on occasion during the day, but they are usually combined with a task I need to complete (i.e.: walking to check the mailbox for our work) – doesn’t that count as a break if I am walking outside, instead of sitting at my desk? Because I am enjoying the walk, I can feel guilty (wrongfully so) feeling as though I should not be enjoying the walk to the mailbox if it is on work time. Other times my breaks consist of my chatting with my employees. While technically not working, this can sometimes feel like work – and does not give me the refresher that I might get if I took 15 minutes to walk around our complex with no agenda at all.
It has been proven that employee work productivity increases when employees diligently take their breaks. The time spent away from the computer screens gives us an opportunity to regroup, refresh, and come back to our projects and tasks with a renewed energy. A 15 minute break can actually reduce the time it takes to complete a project. When you take your breaks, you have more energy and therefore will complete the task more efficiently and effectively with the breaks incorporated in your schedule.
If you are working for an employer who frowns on employees taking their breaks (which, remember, are mandated by law) then I would encourage you to educate your employer about the connection between breaks and productivity. (And, if you have to, remind them about the employment laws.) If you are allowed breaks, but choose not to take them, I would encourage you to re-think your reasoning here. If you are not taking breaks because you want to keep working, then you actually NEED to stop and take the break, however counterintuitive it may feel at the moment. Your break will allow to you complete the task you are worried about in a more productive manner.
Today, 320 days ’til 40, I am going to work to diligently remind myself that breaks are highly correlated with work output. I will get more accomplished if I allow myself to pause for a few moments during the day and take a breath of fresh air.
Taking breaks is a way of caring for yourself and increasing your work output – who wouldn’t want to do that?