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5 tips for taking better breaks at work

It’s time to turn the idea of breaks on its head.

Typically, we think that taking a break from work is just that—a break. We see it as a luxury, a nice-to-have, and when things get busy, something we simply don’t have time for. Raise your hand if you’ve ever said, “I’m too busy to take a break.” Yeah, we’re talking to you.

The problem with this mentality is that it’s at odds with all sorts of science.

From a productivity standpoint, breaks help. They boost your energy and maintain your focus.

From a health perspective, breaks are essential. Sitting for long periods of time is harmful to your health.

When things are hectic, powering through might seem like the logical thing to do, but the reality is that it’s often better to take a break before you start to lose focus, your mind starts to wander, and your productivity dips.

With that in mind, here are five tips for making the most of your breaks at work.

1. Plan Them!

Every day we write to-do lists, schedule meetings, and plan to get things done. Breaks, however, are often forgotten. We assume they’ll happen on their own.

And sometimes they do. But sometimes they don’t.

Rather than leaving it up to chance and circumstance, plan your breaks. Schedule in a 3 pm walk. Add them to your to-do list and cross them off throughout the day.

2. Find a technique that works for you.

Some people swear by the Pomodoro Technique, where they take short breaks every 25 minutes. Other people can focus for longer and like working for 90 minutes straight. It will depend on the day and the type of work you typically do (though more frequently is generally better for your health). If you’re staring at a computer screen all day, it’s good to use the 20-20-20 Rule (every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away).

Experiment with the various options and find something that works for you.

3. Embrace nature!

Breaks in nature have been scientifically proven to be better. There’s something restorative about leaves and trees. They help us relax and boost our creativity.

If you work in a concrete jungle with no trees in sight, get some plants for your office space. Any little bit of greenery helps. Even a picture if that’s all you can manage.

4. Make it social.

Interacting with people is a great way to spend your breaks. Conversation helps take your mind off work and allows you to build the relationships that are so crucial to our well-being. If you’re walking with a co-worker, try to spend as much time talking about non-work things as possible.

5. Unplug completely.

Scrolling through emails or social media doesn’t really give your mind or body the break it needs. Leave your phone at your desk and get away from your workspace whenever possible. It will help you more fully recharge and to return to your work with more energy than when you left.

UPnGO with ParticipACTION helps deskbound workplaces seamlessly integrate fun, rewarding, and healthy behaviour programming into the workday to help employees be at their best.

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It’s time to start giving breaks the priority they deserve. Find a technique that works for you and plan to take breaks throughout the day. When possible, make them social, nature-related, and tech-free (Hint: active breaks combine all three!). And remember, the busiest days when you just don’t have time, might actually be the days when you could benefit from a break the most.

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