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?
April 7, 2012 at 00:15
This one is a necessity…I would imagine that long term production would suffer without breaks…I know i feel energized even after a small one…
April 7, 2012 at 02:50
Me too!!! 🙂
April 7, 2012 at 00:16
Totally agree! Breaks are necessary – especially when up to your neck in a “problem” or “job”. The break often gives you a fresh perspective
April 7, 2012 at 02:49
April 7, 2012 at 00:36
Yeah, we sure are a work/career-based society! But I’m definitely one of those who advocates for lunch breaks and a balance between work and life… both for the sake of productivity and happiness!
April 7, 2012 at 02:29
Yes, they do make us happier!!! 🙂
April 7, 2012 at 00:45
It’s important to take a break. You do a better job after the break so it’s definitely worth it.
April 7, 2012 at 02:28
April 7, 2012 at 00:46
I agree, breaks during the day are so important!!! I have been working in a large company for the past few years, providing reflexology treatments for staff in their breaks. Those who receive treatments often report how much they benefit from even a relatively short session, and I like to think that the company may be benefiting from increased productivity! I love my work as a therapist and yoga teacher, but still I need to make time for my own practice, my family, my writing and my other interests. It’s about making the most of even short breaks. When I was completing my yoga training, I also had a long drive to and from work, making my total working day around 12 hours, and one of my wonderful teachers recommended making use of my driving time for breathing practices – not those that made me sleepy! My work was in a windowless room, and so in the winter months I might not see daylight at all, unless I had made the most of my breaks to get outside, rain or shine, even for just 5 or 10 minutes. These breaks made a mad schedule so much more manageable.
April 7, 2012 at 02:28
Yes, the breaks do make crazy schedules easier to handle. What a great job you had helping employees to relax. I wish more corporations would hire people like you to come assist their employees!
April 7, 2012 at 01:06
I love breaks of all kinds if they don’t involve bones … so yeah to work breaks , coffee breaks, holiday-breaks, break – fast and so many more
April 7, 2012 at 02:26
Yes, me too!!! 🙂
April 7, 2012 at 01:24
Like you I take/took few breaks. It’s just my nature to go balls to the wall, I have no sense of pacing myself. Going into retirement the same will apply in a different context.
Perhaps this is partly why senior employees get more vacation??
April 7, 2012 at 02:25
Maybe! Pacing, what is pacing? That is indeed the lesson we need to learn!:)
April 7, 2012 at 02:09
i’ve got to show this to my Hubby, and then i have to go take a break! 😉
April 7, 2012 at 02:22
🙂 Maybe you should take that break first! 🙂
April 7, 2012 at 02:32
ahaha good point!
April 7, 2012 at 05:17
I work out every day during my ‘lunch break’, and while I sometimes catch envious and/or angry glances from co-workers, I know the 2nd half of my day is more productive than theirs as a result of taking a needed break. Great post!
April 8, 2012 at 05:31
Thanks! Just recently I started wondering if there was a way to work out during my lunch break – what a difference that would make!
April 7, 2012 at 06:43
Great post, I couldnt agree more.
Now that I’ve started taking classes again, I definitely notice the benefit of having some downtime.
Zazen comes in handy a LOT during these busy days. Even 5-10 minutes
April 8, 2012 at 05:28
April 7, 2012 at 07:03
When I was in the working world..I did take breaks, albeit usually late and when convenient to stop and the same for lunch.
My problem was that I spent too many hours working past what I should have been …inevitably the cleaning gentleman would come in to our office and there I would be…much too late I hadn’t always done this when my children were younger of course and needed me home, but when they got older and were out a lot of the time anyway…I’d stay for just a little while longer…and so on
I guess that I would say….DON’T DO THAT!…….easy for me to say now right??
April 8, 2012 at 05:27
Yes, and I can relate – I wrote that post and am HORRIBLE at taking my breaks as I should…. but I am slowly learning that we have to be balance and healthy and we cannot get that time back once it escapes our grasp.
April 7, 2012 at 07:58
If I take a lunch break, go to a nice place to eat, I am not worth a crap when I get back to my desk. May as well pack it in. 🙂 but I do think it’s a good idea for normal people.
April 8, 2012 at 05:26
Very interesting counterpoint – I am sure you are not alone (even if in the minority) when it comes to not being productive after a break…. I find if I eat too much during a break I am sluggish at work after.
April 7, 2012 at 13:02
My last employer wouldn’t allow coffee breaks, but did allow cigarette breaks, with the obvious consequence that a couple of people actually took up smoking. Ridiculous.
A breath of fresh air and a stretch of the legs are the most valuable parts of a stressful day. Oh… and the coffee. 🙂
April 8, 2012 at 05:24
Wow, I had to read your comment twice because I did not believe it! How utterly ridiculous and awful.
April 7, 2012 at 16:18
April 8, 2012 at 05:23
why thank you!!! 😉
April 8, 2012 at 23:12
April 7, 2012 at 17:23
“Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee.”
Great subject … same thing with smokers …. that today has to leave most working places and go outside – quite a few of the smokers brings coffee with them and combine the break or will they take an other coffee breaks too. So we that don’t smoke and don’t drink coffee should really have a couple of more holidays per year.
April 8, 2012 at 05:23
I agree with you!!!!!
April 7, 2012 at 23:00
All that is very true, but there is another reason why they’re a good thing, especially in large organisations. They bring together people working in different roles and teams who have a few minutes in which they can chat. This leads to all sorts of unscripted communication, much of which is work-related but which would not happen through the links in any organisational diagram. In my last job I often got new ideas or found out or communicated important things that way. Some enlightened companies deliberately make space for such interactions for that very reason.
April 8, 2012 at 05:15
Very VERY good point! I had not thought about this and you are absolutely correct – some of our best ideas come from socializing during coffee breaks with fellow employees we may not otherwise get to see!
April 8, 2012 at 02:50
Breaks are for your sanity! One of these days you’ll look back and ask yourself. Oh my God, what the heck was that all about? 😉
April 8, 2012 at 05:12
You are so right! 🙂
The Quiet Borderline
April 8, 2012 at 17:01
Yep, agree that it’s totally important to take breaks. Especially for those of us who work on computers. Eye strain is not a good thing and sometimes I feel my eyes literally (OK, not really) going square! My eyesight has definitely not up to what it used to be, I need to go for an eye test and get glasses. Even though it was only something like 0.75 I needed, the optician still said (10 years ago) that it is important I wear glasses as I have one weaker eye and it can cause the other to become weaker too if I’m not looking after it/them.
The Quiet Borderline
April 9, 2012 at 06:15
Very good point – I have that problem as well – I can only stare at a computer screen for so long before I start to feel miserable!
The Quiet Borderline
April 9, 2012 at 10:27
Hehe – SO true.
April 11, 2012 at 05:52
I’m retired now, but the bad habit of working straight through the day is worse than ever. I turn on my computer first thing in the morning, at 5:30, even before I feed my Persian teenage cats Andy and Dougy or had breakfast, to see who’d left messages on Facebook, if there were any comments on my blog, and so on.
Today, I stopped long enough to play “peacock feather”. (I hate the game, the kitten brothers want to play it all day, on demand!) Yeah, make it move so they can pounce and nibble feather. Mmmmrow-purr-purrrr! Cat games!
But I didn’t eat breakfast until 12:30. Andy bugged me to play “peacock feather”, using his most pitiful whine. I scratched and rubbed his favorite spots, especially the one between his eyes as a ploy to avoid any time away from my computer.
2:00 I realized I hadn’t taken my medications, especially the pain medication, that I am supposed to take with breakfast. I was in deep pain! Damn!
Pills taken, I pried myself away from my computer till after supper, and here I am again, hands sore from lack of those breaks you note a person should take. Didn’t exercise my eyes every hour on the hour at the computer. Didn’t do the exercises I learned at work to reduce wear and tear on my hands. Didn’t stand up and wiggle feeling into my tired body.
A price is paid for the lack of attention to taking time off from work during the day- or play!- is in the form of stress injuries and reduced mobility once you get into retirement. Believe it! And start taking those breaks!
One good way to loosen up: Play “peacock feather” with your cats! Ha!
April 11, 2012 at 16:11
A very good point – when I am not working (ie summer vacation, etc.) I often find myself more busy with things I create for myself (blogging, etc.) than I was at work and I too can then find myself in some of the same bad habits I have when I am working….. old habits, right?
April 11, 2012 at 05:55
Sorry about the first paragraph- kind of lost track of my verb tenses! In the next to last, I slipped in a second instance of the verb “is”. Time to pay attention to my computer orgies and slow them down!
Erin Marie McDonald
April 13, 2012 at 03:49
I really need to do this myself! I find myself the most productive after an hour long lunch break filled with delicious food, knitting and reading.
April 14, 2012 at 01:03
Ah, I would LOVE to get to the point where I knit, eat and read during my lunch breaks – something to strive for!!! 🙂
Erin Marie McDonald
April 16, 2012 at 06:52
This is an infrequent and lovely pleasure! Sometimes it involves hiding in closets (er… book nooks!)! 🙂
April 16, 2012 at 11:12
Me too! How funny, I often tell my secretary that one day she just might find me hiding in my coat closet (literally) in order to get a break. 😉