work colleagues on a break


How to make the most of your work breaks

Averaging around 42 hours a week, employees and workers in the UK work some of the longest hours in the whole of Europe.

According to numerous work-life balance statistics compiled by StandOut CV, almost nine in 10 members of the employee base have reported some kind of burnout over the last two years, with around one in three saying their productivity is hampered as a result.

Long working days need to be supplement by adequate and frequent break periods to get the most out of them. Worryingly, more than 80% of UK workers do not take a full lunch break, with two in three admitting that they eat lunch at their desk most days.

The case for taking work breaks is well established. Numerous studies point to the advantages – reducing or preventing stress, maintaining performance throughout the day, and reducing the need for a long recovery at the end of the day being chief among them. One study previously found that detaching from work increases levels of energy in working periods and decreases levels of exhaustion. Further, the practice of taking breaks has also been shown to increase vigour and energy levels over time.

So, despite the temptation to get heads down and work through as much as possible in one stint, the practice of taking regular breaks is highly likely to improve overall output.

Making the most of those precious downtime moments is therefore crucial. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help to maximise the benefits of taking breaks.

Get outside

The most obvious benefit of taking a break is getting away from the desk. Stretching the legs with a walk around the block is something workers should strive to do on a daily basis.

Better still, if you are fortunate enough to have countryside or nature on your doorstep, walking through these areas are shown to markedly increase concentration abilities at the same time as reducing levels of stress.

Exercise of any form is a beneficial work break activity. Those looking for something more intensive should consider a quick workout if it can be accommodated – be it a run, yoga routine, cycle, organised class, or simply a short stand up and stretching session.

Be sociable

Spending downtime with a colleague or friend can also help to maximise break periods.

Whether going for a walk or doing other forms of exercise together, or simply having a chat over a tea of coffee, interacting with other people is a great way to detach from work and temporarily take your mind off the workload.

Calling someone can also facilitate a switch from concentration to relaxation. Indeed, the process of letting the mind wander can open up the possibility of stumbling across new insights that may not occur in work mode. That five-minute chat or quick stroll with a friend could inspire new ideas and approaches for when the working day resumes.

Eat something healthy

Staying well hydrated and fuelled is another factor which can impact the success of a working day.

Rather than shovel away lunch at the desk while working, use break periods to enjoy food in a more relaxing environment. This could be your kitchen at home, break-out area in the office, or on-site café.

Eating healthy foods and snacks is also encouraged, not least because a healthy, well-balanced diet is one of the best performance enhancers for employee wellbeing.

What to avoid

The key to making the most out of break periods is to give the mind an opportunity to relax.

Some activities do not necessarily feed into this, especially those which are highly stimulating, addictive and fuel unproductive states of mind.

These can include scouring YouTube, eating junk food, browsing shopping sites aimlessly, and social media use without effective boundaries in place. While not necessarily negative activities in and of themselves, especially if carried out in moderation, a worst-case scenario would be to fall down a rabbit hole and waste the rest of the day.

Whatever approach to taking breaks is adopted, the most important thing to do is take them in the first place. Make it a non-negotiable part of the working day and carve it into daily routines – rather than time spent not working, breaks should be treated as an opportunity to reset, let the mind wander and recharge ahead of the next spell at the desk.

At Hartham Park, there are plenty of ways to practise these handy tips. Spend your lunchbreak catching up with coworkers, head out on a walk around Corsham or grab a healthy treat from the onsite café with its focus on locally sourced suppliers, product provenance and homemade food.

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