When you’re busy at work, the last thing on your mind is taking a break. The last thing you want to do 1s to ruin the momentum you’ve built up. Take a break? Pause for thought? Take time out? No chance!
But the reality is that heavy workloads, long hours sat at as desk or on your feet can affect mental capacity and performance as well as physical health too. Studies show that humans possess a limited capacity for concentration over extended time periods, which although not obvious at the time will start to affect the quality and amount of work we can complete as our brains begin to tire.
Although it is impossible to avoid the tiring process it can be managed. Scheduling mini-breaks can help to recharge the batteries, refresh focus and maintain productivity. Your mind and body needs this time to relax and recover, time which be more than made up in the level of performance it maintains. Taking regular breaks can also help to head off a range of associated health problems so they may also assist in avoiding days off sick.
Here a few tips on how to make the most of your breaks with brief explanations of some health conditions they may help reduce too.
Maintaining focus –
If you’ve been working on a single task it’s very easy to lose focus and you soon get a feeling akin to trying to wade through quicksand. Having a break will force you to refocus on what you’re attempting to achieve when you return. This will keep your objectives in view and continually reactivate the impetus you need to drive forward
Eye health –
Computer vision syndrome can affect those who work for long periods on a screen and can manifest itself through headaches, blurred vision and eyestrain. Eyes require regular breaks to ensure they remain healthy. Best practice suggests that you should –
- Ensure that devices are being used at the correct distance
- Rest eyes for 15 minutes in every two hours of continuous screen use. This involves getting away from your desk completely and allowing your eyes time to refocus. Don’t be tempted to simply switch devices, this does not constitute a rest!
- For every 20 minutes of screen use, look away into the distance for 20 seconds.
- Blinking regularly helps to keep your eyes moist. When concentration on something you are less likely to blink making your eyes dry and uncomfortable
Staying sharp –
Taking regular breaks will help to combat fatigue. Remember those times when you’ve felt like you could fall asleep at your desk or when you’ve battled against your eyelids? Extreme tiredness will definitely affect your performance and can be divided into different types. Sensory fatigue can be derived from long spells looking at a screen, cognitive fatigue will affect your alertness, intellectual fatigues will hinder problem solving skills and physiological fatigue is derived from tired muscles.
Tension busting –
Working in the same position for long spells will increase tension in your muscles to the point that they begin to ache. Computer workers are quite often affected by pains in the back, neck, shoulders and arms. Breaks are imperative to help combat these problems and time away should include gentle stretches and gong for a short walk.
Stress reduction –
The struggle to cope with your workload will soon manifest itself in the form of stress. As this can then mutate into something far more intense, mini-breaks can help to alleviate the symptoms of stress. Learning some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercise will help to manage the situation whilst you are on your break.
The body follows a pattern called ultradian rhythms. Your energy levels will slowly diminish over a 90 to 120 minute period culminating in the need to rest. Once you begin to feel hungry, restless, have difficulty concentrating and beginning to yawn repeatedly, this is your body’s way of telling you to rest or at least take a break.
Ideally you should try and take a five to ten minute break every hour, make good use of your lunch hour and look to make good use of your breaks. Make sure you get a complete change of focus for even just a few minutes, the impact on your health and wellbeing will be noticeable not to mention your productivity levels.
Your challenge now is to make sure you make time for a break. You’ll feel the benefit in the long run and be more productive!