Thursday, 16 August 2012

Getting a break, or breaking yourself?

When did you last take a lunch hour? I mean, a full hour, where you got away from your desk and went for a real break? A tea break even, where you left your working area and went outside to breathe? Last week? A month ago? Are you blushing because you can’t recall?

Workplace stress can be countered with some simple and effective techniques including creating space between you and what irks you. Taking time during breaks to recollect who you are and do something that gives you pleasure can make all the difference between ill health and good health.
Some employees I speak to say they feel pressured to be in the office by competitive colleagues or a demanding boss. They feel that disappearing for an hour- ONE WHOLE HOUR, mind you! - will damage how they are seen. They feel they’d be viewed as a slacker, or not committed. They need to be present, regardless of what they are doing.

Doesn’t this mean then that they are often pointlessly busy, rather than productive?

It’s a fact that stress and loss of concentration affects productivity-  piling through your lunch break pausing only to grab a sandwich and snarf it at your desk isn’t going to help you focus and turn out great work for the remainder of the working day. It may even lead to errors- in fact, one study says this sort of working lifestyle costs the UK economy £45m per day.

It’s clear then that being chained to your desk isn’t helping anyone.

So here’s a little tip: long hours does not = great productivity.

So apart from helping you focus better and being entitled to them, why else are proper breaks good for workers and workplaces?

A change of scenery, some fresh air or a walk can work wonders in helping you recharge and return to work refreshed and focussed.

It can help you towards that mythical ‘work life balance’ we are urged to strive for.
There is both an emotional and a physical impact of working long hours without a real break- a lack of time to think about something else can lead to stagnating thinking, with you stuck on a merry-go-round (not-so-merry-go-round?) of stress that leads you into making the same mistakes again and again.
Often, you need to switch off and step away to see what’s really happening. Getting away from your desk can help you achieve that.

Your boss may wonder why you don’t take a break. Why you’re always there. Don’t you have any interests, anything to do? No friends to meet for lunch? And anyway, why should they care about you when you clearly don’t care for yourself? 

Ask any boss- not one of them worth their salt realistically expects your output to be constant, 9 hours a day. You are not a robot. 

If they do, they shouldn’t be managing people, but a mechanised production line.
So what do we recommend? It’s simple enough.

At lunchtime, LEAVE your work area and get a change of scenery- get outdoors if possible. Go for a slow stroll to a shop, buy a bottle of water. Go and look at the ducks in the park. Go and dance in the rain if that’s what makes your wheels squeal. Anything that helps you Be Elsewhere.

GET ACTIVE- go for a walk, to a local leisure centre for a quick swim, or wander off to a park nearby (we recommend having a go on the swings. You’ll get some looks, but you will feel fantastic.) Taking a colleague along makes this a social as well as a healthy activity.

MAKE TIME in your working day to do fun things that you enjoy. That doesn’t mean set up a football pitch in the car park (unless you can) but seek out projects you know you can powerfully contribute to and engage with. Go to the local library. Reacquaint yourself with how it feels to be somewhere tranquil.

When it’s time to take a break, try to FEEL HAPPY and RELAX as you enjoy some free time. We all have those lunchtimes when we have to shop, make calls, or run something somewhere. Just prioritise. Can that wait til later? Can someone else do that?

Breaks are an essential part of the day, and without them we become sluggish, rusty and miserable. 

We mess up, and we get sick.

We hope you’ll look at this differently in your workplace, and we look forward to never having to write about this ever again.

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