Everyone could use some quality break time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are working from home. On the plus side, remote work guarantees zero commute and easy access to the pantry for snacks. However, it also means you’re logged on for a longer time and not enjoying the breaks you used to have at the office.
Before COVID, walks to your office’s water station, coffee breaks with your colleagues or chats with the HR about the best mind bending movies on Netflix are no longer part of your 9-to-5. At home, it’s all about Zoom meetings and emails combined with caring for the kids while calling a service for your HVAC.With work and home combined, it’s almost impossible to take a good break.
The Reality of Breaks at Home
There are two ways breaks at home can go. On the other side of the spectrum, most people eat a quick lunch, scarfing down a salad or a sandwich before going online for their next video call. A 1-hour break doesn’t seem reasonable, especially if you have the kids to mind, too. A power walk around the block for 15 minutes is already a luxury.
On the other hand, some people prioritize their breaks too much. Some people go off the rail, taking a 10-minute break and stretching it into a two-hour story of Buzzfeed quizzes, YouTube videos and online shopping. By noon, they end up waving the white flag and putting off their job for the next day.
Cuddling with your dog or stopping to stare out of the window can feel guilt-inducing, lazy, or logistically impossible. Done right, however, breaks can recharge your batteries, make you more productive, boost your focus and increase your happiness.
So how should you do your breaks? Should you scroll through Instagram, do some burpees or meditate?
Here are ways you can make them count.
Take a Break that Feels Different from Your Work
For most people, a break from staring at their computers means staring at their phones. Watching YouTube videos or scrolling through social media is fun but you’re not giving your eyes a break.
Instead, do something completely different from your work, which means an activity with no screen time. Move your body; go outside and walk. You don’t have to make a big production to take some quality breaks. Even if it’s a simple cuddle with your pet, a screen break can make a difference.
Take A Responsible Break
If your breaks often go off the rails, take breaks that keep you in your work mindset. These breaks should be productive. For example, check off something from your to-do list like washing the dishes or folding your laundry. It feels like you’re finishing some tasks, even if it’s not as big as the looming deadline you’re dreading.
When you do chores to ‘avoid’ work, this is called productive procrastination, but these to-do list tasks are perfect for taking a break. Productive tasks that don’t require too much thinking offers a good contrast to your work.
Trade the Mid-Afternoon Break for a Morning Break
Once 3 PM arrives (aka the mid-afternoon slump), most people go to their pantry or fridge for food or just watch YouTube videos. A study from the Journal of Applied Psychology, however, reported that morning breaks are more productive. Mid-afternoon breaks are too late; you’re already tired by 3 PM and are only good for de-cluttering out your inboxes or repetitive administrative tasks.
In the morning, however, you can still regain your 9 AM focus after a rejuvenating break. Many people have better focus in the morning, so extend your productivity by taking a break at around 10 or 11.
Avoid Breaking the Flow
As great as breaks are, you can still work when needed. If your ideas are flowing faster than before, your work is doing itself or you’re so absorbed with your work, keep going. Don’t just take a break just because you think you should.
Sometimes, a break can break your mojo. So if you’re being incredibly productive, you don’t have to step on the brakes.
But When You Have to Rest, Rest Like You Mean It
Once you finish your work, rest like you mean it. If your work keeps you tethered to your computer, leave the work behind for the weekend. Use your weekends and evenings to temporarily forget your to-do list and just rest. Get away from work and spend time with your loved ones. Or do some hobbies. Just get away from work. You deserve it.