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10 Ways to Take Real Breaks When Working from Home

by Lois Earles

Working from home has been hard on all of us. According to research from CNBC, 69 percent of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms due to working from home.

Stress and burnout don’t have to be part of your job description. Taking adequate breaks is a crucial part of keeping your productivity high and avoiding burnout. However, without the watercooler talks and office gyms (not to mention the pressures of performing at your best all the time because your boss can’t physically see you), taking a break when working from home can be challenging. We’ve included some of our best tips for taking adequate breaks below.

1. Schedule Breaks

Want to take an effective break? Schedule it. A recent article from Fast Company saw business expert Cal Newport weigh in on the importance of scheduling breaks. According to Newport, “if you don’t schedule [your breaks], your brain says ‘I know I need to take a break at some point. Why not now?’ You’re constantly having that ‘Why not now?’ conversation in your head.

You might take a break to check the news, the election, or something else online. This saps your willpower, and you end up taking more breaks or you become distracted. If you know you’re taking a break in an hour, you can focus on work and enjoy the break more.”

2. Keep it Intentional

For Newport, what you do on your break matters just as much as taking the break itself. What does this mean? Newport recommends not talking about work at all and avoiding your inbox as if your life depends on it. He explains it beautifully: “What you do is important. If you take a break in the middle of the day, one of the things you should avoid exposing yourself to is something that is in the same contextual realm of normal work. If you switch to another work activity, you get cognitive pileup and it’s hard to switch your attention back.”

When you take a break, take a break. It’s tempting to call another coworker on your lunchtime walk to talk about what a pain the manager is being but doing that means your mind never really switches off – essential for coming back from a break refreshed.

3. Play a Video Game

Video games are more popular than ever before – according to research from Chumba Casino, 74 percent of workers play video games as a break from work, and 73 percent say that playing those games relieves their workplace stress. Playing a video game is a great way to reframe your workspace – and allows you to take a break without ever stepping away from your desk.

4. Step Away from the Screen

The experts at Forbes suggest that stepping away from the screen can help you switch off. They recommend doing a crossword puzzle or reading a chapter of a book to keep your mind engaged.

5. Don’t Interrupt ‘Flow’

Though scheduling breaks is essential, don’t feel like you need to adhere to your schedule religiously, especially if you feel like you’re in a state of ‘flow.’ According to business experts at Inc., ‘flow’ refers to: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

If you’re immersed in your work, don’t take a break for the sake of it – it can ruin your concentration and leave you more frustrated and stressed than when you began. Ride the productivity wave and take a break when you start to feel tired instead.

6. Try a Morning Break over a Midafternoon Break

The timings of your breaks are important. Why? The experts at Psychology Today say that if you head off for a break at 3:00 PM, you’re already drained – you’re not good for anything but responding to emails when you come back. However, if you take a break in the morning, you still have a chance to regain those productive hours. Many people focus better in the morning, so it’s certainly something to bear in mind when scheduling your downtime.

7. Consider a Microbreak

Are you pushed for time on a big project? The experts at Psychology Today have cited the importance of taking a quick break of fewer than five minutes if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Closing your eyes for just a few minutes can increase your productivity – and will stop you from losing that critical workflow rhythm.

8. Exercise

Exercising during your break is a great way to knock out two birds with one stone – and it can make you more productive. A recent article from the BBC cited a 2008 study that found that “more than 200 employees who had access to and used a company gym were more productive during the day, and went home feeling more satisfied on the days they exercised during regular work hours.”

Well, the ‘company gym’ bit might not be so applicable right now, but this certainly supports taking a break to get some exercise. It doesn’t need to be a massive hour-long slog, either. In the BBC article, fitness expert Sandy Todd Webster says, “whether it’s five minutes or an hour of movement, there are real health benefits to any type of activity during the workday. If you are able to walk or power yourself forward by some means, do it. You don’t need a gym. Movement opportunities are everywhere.”

9. Have a (Healthy) Snack

Snacks are a great way to feel more energized and in control – if you choose the right one. The experts at Forbes suggest a snack that’s high in protein and low in refined carbohydrates and sugar. Those snacks will make you feel great for a minute, but you’ll crash soon and will end up worse off than you started.

10. Take a ‘Breath Break’

Focusing on your breathing is a great way to get rid of stress and calm the body. The great news? Even just a short session (a ‘breath break,’ if you’ll pardon the pun) can seriously benefit your body. Experts at Shine recommend counting breaths and taking a body scan to feel more relaxed and focused quickly.

Taking a break when working from home isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth your time. Now close this tab and take a break – your work will thank you for it!

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