If you occasionally feel yourself daydreaming or having trouble concentrating at work, it’s because your brain needs a break, and recent research showed frequent breaks can give you more energy.
Conducted by Baylor University, the research indicated a connection between taking regular breaks and valuable outcomes such as greater job satisfaction, lower levels of emotional exhaustion and more efforts by workers to go above-and-beyond their job description.
While employers must allow nursing mothers to take breaks, federal law doesn’t mandate lunch, coffee or rest breaks. Some states do have laws necessitating lunch or rest breaks. Also, some labor unions have negotiated contracts for their members that includes mandatory lunch and rest breaks.
To figure out what makes for an effective work break, researchers from Baylor University surveyed 95 employees from a single employer that were between 22 and 67 years old over a five-day workweek. After each break, employees concluded short surveys on their break activity and overall well-being. Researchers considered how well respondents slept the night before, how tired they felt in the morning and how much energy they had before the break.
Surveyed staff members reported an average of two breaks per day, but there were days when some volunteers reported no break at all.
Scientists were not capable of determining the ideal number or length of breaks but discovered that timing is vital. The more hours that passed before a break, the less revived and the more indications of poor health employees reported when going back to the job. Basically, laboring through a lot of the workday before taking a break is not as regenerative as making time early in the day.
Following a morning break, staff members said they had more vigor, more inspiration to come back to work and were more capable of concentrating than those who waited, the study found. Early breaks also were connected with fewer symptoms — like headaches and lower back pain — when workers came back to work.
The researchers also found that breaks were particularly re-energizing if workers did something they enjoy during them. With that finding in mind, consider the following ways to re-energize yourself.
Phone a friend
Calling a good friend not only gets your mind off of work, it can also remind you there’s more to life than the daily grind. You could even use your break to call your mom, especially if you’re one of those sons or daughters who “never calls!”
Play a game or do a puzzle
If you find games like Candy Crush or crossword puzzles soothing, your break is a good time to get in one of those brain teasers. Exercising a different part of your brain can even translate into inspiration for your job.
Do some light reading
Reading a book or the news can help you take a mental break from work stress, but it’s probably best to avoid any intense or controversial content. The last thing you want to do on your break is get outraged over the latest controversy.