The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of change quickly. In a matter of weeks, many of us have gone from the normal office routine to working from home full time… and that’s completely new for some.
If this is your first experience working from home, there are multiple pitfalls to avoid. While it’s not uncommon for folks to fret about productivity dropping off, many people—especially small business leaders—are in danger of making the opposite mistake.
In the bubble of your home office, it’s easy to double-down on your focus and forget how important the occasional break can be.
In this article, we’ll discuss why breaks are important, the positive effect frequent breaks can have on your productivity, and how breaks safeguard your mental health. We’ll also share 9 tips for taking breaks, organized by your personal interests.
No matter what you’re into, we have productivity-boosting ideas for creative breaks that will make your workweek a little smoother.
Why you need breaks when working from home
Under normal circumstances, working from home can be amazing. You get to ditch the commute and break up your normal routine. It’s a nice reprieve from the daily grind.
Of course, our current national situation is anything but the norm. We’ll address that more in a bit. But even under normal circumstances, folks with experience working from home routinely talk about the need for healthy boundaries, including frequent breaks.
Here’s an all-too-common scenario.
When you work from home, your personal life and your professional life get intermingled. Is that convenient? Sure. It can be. It’s nice to have the freedom to throw a load of laundry in the wash mid-morning instead of rushing to take care of it when you get home at night.
But there’s a potential downside, too. If you’re passionate about your job (and if you’re a small business leader, we sure hope you are), you’ll be tempted to work too much. It’s surprisingly easy to buckle down and plow through the day, working from the moment you wake until after your normal quitting time.
After all, you’re at home. That, in and of itself, feels like a break of sorts. Plus, your business needs you right now.
“You have to take breaks as a remote worker if you want to preserve your sanity and be more focused on your work. Real breaks. Regular breaks. Away-from-your-computer breaks.” – The Muse
And that’s exactly why you need structured, intentional breaks. Because if you don’t have a strategy for taking them, you’ll overwork yourself. And if you burn out, you’re no good to your business, your staff or your customers.
You need to take breaks.
How work breaks boost productivity
It’s no secret that frequent breaks lead to greater productivity.
In fact, when The Draugiem Group, a Latvia-based conglomerate of businesses, tracked and analyzed their employees’ work habits, they found the most efficient, productive workers were those who took surprisingly frequent (and long) breaks. As Forbes reported, “On average, this high-productivity group worked for 52 minutes and then took a 17-minute long break.”
There’s science behind the need for regular work breaks, as well. Breaks replenish your motivation, enable creativity, improve learning, and help you avoid fatigue. The sum total of that effect is an overall increase in productivity.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll get more done if you slow down from time to time.
“Prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.” – Psychology Today
Work breaks really matter right now
As mentioned above, our current situation is anything but normal. The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot—including our normal working routines. And even if you’re not especially worried about the virus, itself, there’s a good chance you’re concerned about the potential economic fallout.
Yes, you need to stay productive. We get it—especially if, like so many of our clients, you’re a small business owner. Anything you can do to help your business right now is critical.
And taking care of yourself does take care of your business.
We urge you, don’t make the mistake of working so hard and so long right now that you end up more stressed out and less productive. Recognize your own needs and make sure you’re taking care of yourself.
“Your health and wellbeing is an invaluable investment.” – Entrepreneur
9 amazing ways to take a quick break while working from home
Seeing the benefits of frequent breaks and actually taking frequent breaks are two different things. After all, when you’re in the office, you can just turn to a co-worker and chat. At home, if you don’t find a way to fill that break time, it likely won’t happen.
No worries. Whatever you’re into, we have suggestions for fun, healthy, upbeat breaks. (Because reading the latest headlines is not a break.)
1. For the animal lover
There are tons of zoos sharing all kinds of fun video footage right now. There are live streams if you want to know what the animals are doing right now, and there are pre-recorded videos of random things like penguins going on an in-zoo field trip.
Here are a few of our favorite options for animal videos:
- The San Diego Zoo
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium
- The Cincinnati Zoo
- The Georgia Aquarium
- Zoo School Live (Elmwood Park Zoo)
2. For working parents
If you think that last link above sounds like it’s kid-oriented, you’re right. And kid-friendly options are big right now because there are so many parents trying to balance work and family while shifting to a home office environment.
First things first. It’s not easy to work from home with little ones—especially if both parents are working or if you’re a single parent. So take breaks whenever you can.
Seriously. If the kids fall asleep or get distracted by their favorite Disney movie, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and just breathe for a bit. It’s hard to plan breaks with children in the equation, so be on the lookout for opportunities as they arise.
That email will wait. Your mental health won’t.
3. For the social butterfly
You know what’s hard about social distancing? It’s light on the “social” and heavy on the “distancing.” If you rely on interaction to fuel your work efforts, working from home can be difficult.
So find ways to be social.
Some folks keep a live video chat (via Zoom, for example) open with another co-worker as a way of feeling like another person is around. Or use your breaks to call someone—a friend, family member or co-worker—and visit.
Even quick (limited) visits to Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it) can scratch the social itch.
4. For the outdoor enthusiast
One of the unique challenges of quarantine is that we’re all stuck at home. The conventional wisdom (“It’s a pretty day! Get out of the house!”) doesn’t necessarily apply.
If you’re under strict shelter-in-place orders, including even going for walks, stay at home. You’ll have to get your outdoor fix through videos (like the zoo videos above) and your physical activity from at-home workouts.
If your area has called for social distancing but walks are still allowed, then take walks. Just be sure to keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, and try not to touch anything while you’re out.
“Do something physical every day, preferably something that also improves your posture, because you’re likely sitting a heck of a lot more than you were before.” – Inc
5. For the reader
Boy oh boy, is this a good time to catch up on all the reading you’ve put off. And it’s easy to take short breaks with a book. Just step away from your computer, find a comfy spot, and indulge in a chapter.
Of course, all of that assumes you have a book to read. If you don’t, we recommend firing up your online vendor of choice (Amazon is the go-to for most) and checking out available ebooks.
You can read an ebook on anything from an ereader to a smartphone and you don’t have to break any social distancing rules get your hands on one.
6. For the coffee aficionado
Remember that French press you bought a few years ago? The one you told yourself you’d make good use of? Yeah, we know. It’s snug in the cabinet it’s been in for most of the time you’ve it.
Well, it’s time to break that bad boy out.
Coffee makes for a nice break because it comes with a complete ritual—everything that goes into making the best cup you can make. Take your time with the process and allow yourself to enjoy it.
Consider even enjoying a few sips before you make your way back to your laptop.
7. For movie buff
Granted, the average film is a bit long for a work break. And many of us struggle to maintain focus if there’s a movie playing in the background. So instead of splitting your attention, while you’re focused on work, focus on work.
And when you need a break, maybe watch 10-15 minutes of one of your favorite flicks.
Time yourself if you have to. Don’t over-indulge. But it’s totally okay to watch a couple of scenes. Plus, picking back up where you left off will give you something to look forward to about your next break.
8. For the gamer
Like the advice above for movie fans, be sure you don’t completely forget about work. The middle of the workday is not a good time to start a gaming project that will take hours. But if there’s something you can do to kill just a little time—say, one quick match—then knock yourself out.
Just make sure whatever you’re playing actually lowers your stress level. If gaming gets you revved up, it may not make for the best break-time activity.
9. For the overworked and stressed out
There’s a final, obvious break-time option that works particularly well if you’re running on empty. Just relax.
Spend 5-10 minutes meditating. Take a quick power nap. Look out the window for a bit or play with your pet for a few minutes. Watch the clouds. Drink some water. Just move around in your home. Anything, as long as it helps.
If you feel your stress level rising, don’t wait until you’re overloaded before you do something to take care of yourself. Step away from work, just for a bit, and give yourself time to recharge.
Every element of your health matters right now—the physical and the mental. So do what you can to ensure you’re taken care of.