When you’re busy at work (and let’s face it, we’re busy a lot), it’s easy to let 4 or 5 hours slip by without even getting up from your desk. Today’s work culture seems to require us to be always-on and we’re often under pressure to perform and meet tight deadlines. While our days are crammed, breaks can often be seen as a luxury that we simply don’t have the time for.
Some studies have found that 62% of professionals tend to eat their lunch at their desks. These statistics are worrying as we all know that taking breaks is important to maintain our energy levels and boost productivity and motivation. So why do we find it so hard to leave our desks and take a break?
While you may not think you have the time for a leisurely break, recent research is showing that even taking short breaks, or microbreaks, throughout the day can be just as beneficial as longer ones.
What are microbreaks?
As the name suggests, a microbreak is any short break that you take from work during your day. This could include anything from having a chat with a co-worker, grabbing a coffee, or standing up to stretch.
How will microbreaks benefit you?
Even if you do sit at a desk all day, your work can be mentally and physically tiring. Staring at a computer screen for hours at a time will strain your eyes, body and mind. And while we want to put ourselves into a focused state, researchers now believe that spending too long focusing on one task can actually have a negative impact.
If we allow our energy levels to drop, then our minds naturally start to wander and our bodies crave movement. In this state, it is difficult to keep our attention on our work and to optimise our productivity levels.
While microbreaks may feel like an interruption to your work, they will actually help to ease your body and reboot your brain. Even a couple of minutes break can have a powerful impact on your productivity. You will concentrate more, be less stressed, more comfortable and happier.
How to introduce microbreaks into your day
If you’d like to ensure you take more microbreaks throughout your workday, here are some suggestions:
1. Give your eyes a break with 20/20/20 exercises
Starting at a screen all day strains your eyes and can cause your shoulder, neck and facial muscles to tighten. To help reduce this, try starting at an object that is at least 20 feet from your desk for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
2. Practice breathing exercises
Feeling stressed at work is fairly common and this microbreak will help to reduce it. Try this breathing technique:
- Find a comfortable spot where you can sit upright
- Close your eyes and begin breathing through your nose
- Inhale for two counts
- Hold your breath for one count
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for four counts
- Finish by holding your breath for one second and then repeat
3. Move, walk or stretch
Sitting down all day can cause all sorts of health problems but microbreaks can counteract them. You only need to take a few minutes to stand up and stretch or walk around the office.
4. Get some fresh air
Spending a small amount of time outdoors will boost your cognitive functions and productivity. Plus, those who get more fresh air have been shown to have reduced mental fatigue and even sleep better at night. So, if you can get outside, do it.
5. Drink plenty of water
We can all drink more water during the day. Being hydrated will improve your focus, motivation and physical performance. One study found that drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning can increase productivity by 14%! Plus, if you need to refill your water glass more regularly, you’ll be benefitting from additional microbreaks.
Bringing it all together
It’s easy to introduce a few more microbreaks into your day. Making small changes like the ones above will have a big impact on your energy and productivity levels. No matter how busy you may feel, there’s always time for a microbreak.