Inspirational author Alan Cohen was quoted as saying, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither”. Sage advice, but how many American workers heed it?
According to a 2012 study, only 1 in 5 workers are taking work breaks away from their work space. Fewer workers are using their accrued vacation time, giving up over 200 million forfeited vacation days per year, which results in an average of $604 dollars being donated towards their employer.
Worries about job security, and those that believe taking less time off or working through breaks could lead to a promotion, may contribute to workers using less paid time off. Work breaks and time off are important for workers’ mental health and overall well-being.
Utilizing available time off, whether PTO, sick days or just time away from your desk may actually help you get that promotion you’ve been eyeing or break that stalemate on an important decision you need to make.
So, how can you make breaks work for you? First, use them wisely. Some people work best in split increments of time, say a half hour to an hour, followed by another short break away from the desk. This is called the Pomodoro Technique and helps people power through distractions and gives a sense of urgency to getting work done in an allotted time. Other people work best in short burst breaks, like 15-minutes. The most productive time to take these types of breaks are between 10-11AM and 2-3PM.
Second, get outside! Just 10 minutes of physical activity, such as a brisk walk, can increase serotonin levels in your brain. This can stave off negative feelings and increase your happiness, putting you in a better frame of mind to head back to the grind. Being immersed in nature is said to help spring creativity, so get out to the walking trail or a nearby park. It may spark that next big idea you need.
Thirdly, you can use that lunch break to network. Connect with a mentor, find someone who may want to help with that side project you’ve been delaying, or just meet a new co-worker and enhance your professional relationship. Socializing can increase feelings of well-being and improve your mood. According to Psychology Today, it may even boost your immune system or decrease your risk of dementia.
Striking the perfect work-life balance can be hard but giving yourself the tools and tricks to improve both is a great start. Get outside, get moving, and watch your creativity and focus flourish.