Emails flood your inbox. Deadlines hover. Employers have demands. It’s 2PM on a Monday and you haven’t even had a single meal break yet. In the current workaday world of non-stop connectivity, taking 15 minute breaks at work is more important than ever for employees. These moments of reprieve from work are good for your health and your productivity.
Read on to learn about how breaks can support your overall sense of well-being and how to integrate them into your daily routine.
The General State Of Affairs
There’s no doubt that Americans work a lot. Even with technological advances like computers and smartphones, employees often log more than 40 hours worked a week. Here’s a quick snapshot of just how much American employees work.
- On average, most people work at least 47 hours a week.1 That’s a lot of extra hours of work. It’s almost like giving your employer an extra day of work each week – for free.
- Employees leave almost 10 days of vacation days unused a year.2
- The U.S. is the only developed country without legally mandated paid vacation days for employees.3
- Reports say that nearly 62% of professionals now eat lunch at their desk or computer.4
- It’s predicted that by 2027, over 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelance.5 Self-employed workers may be their own bosses, but many of them actually work more hours a week than normal wage employees.6 Plus, they do not enjoy benefits such as workers’ compensation, overtime pay, minimum wage, or collective bargaining power.
Why Breaks Are So Important
Employees aren’t taking extra breaks even though they have longer work hours. It’s quite the opposite. Many people are taking shorter breaks and shorter lunches.7
All these extra hours worked makes taking a break even more important. Whether it’s a long lunch or a little break time in the middle of the day, periods of rest can do all sorts of great things for your health and productivity. Here are the highlights:
- Properly conserving and protecting your energy is vital to both your health and job performance.8
- People in the U.S. spend over 50% of their time in a sedentary position. All that sitting isn’t good for your health. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take breaks and move around. Even small breaks from a sedentary position at the computer may help support your heart health.9
- Breaks provide essential downtime for your brain. In fact, one study found that workers who take breaks are actually more productive than people who don’t take breaks.10 That’s because breaks can help fight off fatigue and stimulate your brain.11
Employees Versus Their Employers
Hopefully, you work in a place where your employer recognizes the benefits of breaks and promotes them for their employees.
If that’s not the case, you might need to do a little research into fair labor laws regarding break requirements. Every state has different rules for employers regarding things like breaks, wages, and meal breaks.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your fellow employees to work together to maximize the benefits of employment laws. Work with your employer and share the facts to ensure you get the breaks you deserve.
Remember, a well-rested employee is actually a more productive employee. That’s something any employer should celebrate.
How To Become A Break-Master
The good news is, with a little discipline and perseverance, it’s easy to integrate breaks into your day. This helps limit the number of hours worked in a week and gives you some much-needed rest.
The first step is to get a plan in place. Treat breaks like a necessary part of your job. Schedule them, and don’t let them lose priority because of a busy workload. Break times are essential for keeping you healthy and happy.12
A sick and exhausted employee isn’t a productive employee, either. Do yourself and your employer a favor by taking a few breaks here and there each day. Even if they’re only 5-10 minutes.
Try some of these tactics to introduce breaks back into your schedule.
Reclaim Your Lunch
You are most likely allotted 30-60 minutes for lunch every day because of lunch break laws. Use that time. It’s yours. More and more employees are letting these hours of rest go to waste as you read above.
Reclaiming your meal break is a great first step towards establishing a pattern of separation from your desk and work. Lunch is one of the few times specifically set aside for you during the day. Take advantage of it. Even if you do eat at your desk, you probably have some time leftover. Use it to go for a walk, sit outside, read a book, or call a friend.
Your lunch break shouldn’t be your only break of the day, but it’s a good start.
Take A Coffee Break
Go out for coffee, or just take a trip to the breakroom. Grabbing coffee or tea is a great reason to get up and stretch your legs.
You can have a cup of coffee with some other employees or spend a little solo time just letting your mind wander. Try to avoid taking your coffee straight back to your desk. Instead, use the time to move around or to have a chat with friends away from your monitor. This is a great way to let your mind recover a little.
Go For A Walk
Being outside can do you and your mind a lot of good. Spend one of your breaks in the fresh air if the weather permits. Time in nature relaxes the mind, supports good health, and may increase job satisfaction.13
A walk outside combines physical activity and the therapeutic qualities of the outdoors. Your mind and body will thank you. Your boss might thank you too, when you come back refreshed and ready to tackle more work.
Visit The Watercooler
The watercooler enjoys a long history as a break time destination. Employees turn a trip for hydration into a chance for chit chat and a bit of standing and stretching.
Do your part to uphold this American tradition. It gives you an excuse to step away from work for a few minutes and maybe catch up on some quality time with coworkers.
Make A Schedule
Chances are, you already have a calendar jam-packed with appointments, meetings, and deadlines. Do yourself a favor and schedule in breaks for yourself throughout the day. Treat them with the same level of professionalism that you do with any other task. In other words, make sure you actually take those breaks.
Divide your day up into one-hour shifts. Then, schedule 15 minute breaks for yourself every hour or so throughout the day. This creates a pattern and makes your breaks feel more official.
Additionally, write down when you want to stop working for the day. If your wages account for an 8-hour work day, then make sure you don’t work over that.
Be Your Own Boss When It Comes To Break Time
Breaks can really make or break you. Fifteen minute breaks at work, especially if you work in front of a computer all day, can be incredibly important to your health and productivity.
There are laws and regulations that require most employers to provide their employees with breaks. However, it’s up to you to actually take advantage of this time.
Apply the same dedication to breaks that you do to your work, and you can start to enjoy the benefits of some downtime. At the end of the day, you are the most important client of all. So, treat yourself that way.
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