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Are You Sacrificing Your Health for Success? The Surprising Benefits of Taking Breaks at Work

Do you ever find yourself working through your lunch break, skipping breaks altogether, or simply not taking enough time away from your desk during the workday? If so, you're not alone. Unfortunately, many of us have fallen into the trap of believing that the key to success is working longer and harder. However, the truth is that taking regular breaks is essential for both your well-being and the overall health of your workplace.

Taking breaks during the workday has been shown to impact our physical and mental health positively. Research has found that taking breaks can help reduce stress, improve focus and productivity, and even lower the risk of health issues like heart disease and obesity.

Lately, I've been reminded of just how crucial it is to take breaks and prioritise my well-being. I'll admit I'm guilty of trying to juggle too many things at once. My plate is full as a business owner, an executive coach, a single mother, an online course creator, and an ultra-runner training for a big race in April. To make matters worse, I'm currently going through menopause, which has resulted in many sleepless nights spent tossing and turning in a bed that feels like a furnace.

I often feel like I'm constantly behind like I'm being squeezed from every angle. Unfortunately, this is a feeling that I'm all too familiar with, as I've always been someone who takes on too much. I know the signs that I'm pushing myself too hard, but sometimes I ignore them, hoping to power through.

But the truth is, it's not sustainable. It's not healthy. And it's unfair to myself or those who depend on me. Taking regular breaks is not a luxury or a sign of weakness but an essential part of maintaining my well-being and achieving my goals.

I've always been an advocate for taking breaks, and a recent conversation with a dear friend reminded me of something I had shared with her in the past. She told me that I had emphasised the importance of taking a lunch break during the day and intentionally stepping away from work, even if it's just for 15 minutes. Her reminder was a wake-up call for me to practice what I preach and prioritise my own well-being by taking breaks throughout the day. So, I'm trying to be more mindful of my need for rest and self-care and build these breaks into my calendar, even when it feels like there's not enough time in the day.

Increase productivity by taking an intentional lunch break
Increase productivity by taking an intentional lunch break

There are many benefits to taking regular breaks at work and here are a few:

Increased productivity

Taking breaks can be a powerful way to increase productivity by allowing your brain to recharge and prevent burnout. Research has shown that regular breaks can increase focus and creativity, ultimately leading to more efficient and effective work. I have found that taking breaks has been a game-changer for my own productivity. After taking a break, I often feel re-energised and able to approach a project with a fresh perspective. This has allowed me to move faster on projects I was previously stuck on and ultimately produced higher-quality work. You can improve your productivity and work more efficiently and effectively by prioritising regular breaks in your workday.

Reduced stress

Regular breaks at work are essential for reducing stress levels and promoting a more relaxed and calm state of mind. However, it can be challenging to recognise when stress is starting to build up. I've started incorporating a quick body check into my daily routine to combat this. For example, after returning from the toilet, I take a minute to sit and notice any tension in my body. I often find that my shoulders are tense and that I am unconsciously squeezing them up towards my ears. Linking this body check to a habitual action makes it more natural and consistent. Taking this moment to relax and let go allows me to release tension and approach my work with a clearer, more focused mind. This small, simple practice can significantly reduce stress and promote overall well-being throughout the workday.

Improved physical health

Sitting for prolonged periods can significantly impact your physical health, leading to issues such as poor posture, back pain, and increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems. To counteract these negative effects, taking breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around can be incredibly beneficial for your overall physical health.

As someone who works from home and spends most of my day sitting, I know firsthand the importance of incorporating movement into my routine. To stay healthy and energised throughout the day, I take regular breaks to get up and stretch, switch to standing mode at my desk, or take a quick walk around my flat.

After every coaching session, I make it a point to get up and do some back stretches to counteract the strain of sitting. Additionally, I often step out onto my balcony for a few minutes to breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the beauty of nature. These small but intentional breaks are another way to help me stay physically healthy, mentally refreshed, and better approach my work with focus and clarity.

Improve physical health with a walk in nature
Improve physical health with a walk in nature

Enhanced mental health

Incorporating breaks into your workday can have a powerful impact on your mental health, reducing feelings of anxiety and improving your overall mood. This can help to create a more positive and productive work environment and improve your overall well-being.

I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed and anxious when working on something challenging. But unfortunately, my mood and emotions can be negatively affected if I stay in that anxious state. That's why I have found that taking a break to engage in physical activity or be in nature, such as going for a run, sitting in nature, dancing in my living room or simply pausing for a few minutes, can help me break that anxious focus and move into a more positive and productive headspace.

Time to Creating a Break-Friendly Work Culture....

As a business owner, I recognise the importance of taking ownership of my own well-being during working hours. It's a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and ensuring that I can perform at my best. And, I believe this is something that all individuals must permit themselves to do, and I also feel that companies need to embed it into their culture.

To create a break-friendly work culture, leadership needs to take the lead. In addition, employers and managers should prioritise the well-being of their employees by encouraging them to take regular breaks and setting an example by doing so themselves. Providing employees with resources and tools, such as comfortable seating, standing desks, or designated break rooms, is also key.

Employees can also play a role in creating a break-friendly work culture. This can involve setting reminders to take breaks, encouraging coworkers to take breaks together, or suggesting ways to make break time more enjoyable and effective, such as playing games or taking a short walk outside. By working together, employers and employees can create a culture that prioritises well-being, resulting in a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace for all.

Regular breaks are crucial for our well-being and productivity, as they reduce stress, improve focus and creativity, and promote physical and mental health. Creating a break-friendly work culture requires efforts from both employers and employees, such as providing resources and taking breaks regularly. By prioritising breaks, we can achieve a healthier work-life balance and a more positive and productive workplace.

As someone who wears many hats, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing that working longer and harder is the key to success. However, I have learned through experience that taking breaks and prioritising our well-being is vital for achieving our goals and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

What can you do today to create a work-friendly break culture?


About the Author

Debbie Brupbacher - Executive Coach: Career, Leadership & Teams

Debbie has a passion for guiding leaders and teams toward their full professional potential. Those who work with Debbie can expect to be inspired and encouraged as she courageously and compassionately supports you to achieve your desired goals.


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