Why proper breaks during the working day have never been more important
The modern day tea break
Oh, its 10.30. Time for a break. Think I’ll go and stick the kettle on and have a coffee and see if there’s any of that birthday cake left in the kitchen. Be good to catch up with Megan too and see how she is after that run in with Simon in the ops meeting. Phone in hand, ready to go…
Sound familiar? We all need breaks in our days. At work they’re vital if we want to perform at our best and not become overwhelmed. We are all taking so much information in during our working day that stepping away from the desk to allow some time to recalibrate is really important. And although many people still do this something has fundamentally changed – the presence of the smartphone.
These days a lot of us habitually carry our phone around with us everywhere we go. It’s an extension of ourselves. And as a result during our break times we are still processing information – be that scrolling through news or social media, whatsapp chats or even our work inbox! The chance for a proper break away to allow the mind to wander, have some rest and some downtime, just isn’t the same.
The importance of stepping away
In today’s always-on, digitally distracted world many psychologists and psychiatrists are reiterating the importance of breaks. Shine Offline’s associate Consultant psychiatrist Dr Ian Drever from Esher Groves clinic says:
“Being on a screen and multitasking makes us feel good. It gives us the illusion of productivity, but it’s all a bit of an empty sugar rush. All that’s happening is that we’re rewarding the novelty-seeking part of our brain by jumping around from one task to the next.
The real results come from sustained, focused, big-picture effort. This kind of work is hugely aided by switching off and having time away from screens, devices and distractions.”
What we do on our break times
If we are habitually checking news and social media during our break times this could be having a fundamentally negative impact on our mood. There are various scientific studies that demonstrate that social media use can have a negative impact on how we feel. And although called “social media” the vast majority of time spent on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is extremely passive. Research has shown the amount of active, non-passive social media use that occurs on is staggeringly low. 0.09% on Facebook, 1.6% on Instagram, and 0.048% on Twitter.
And in turn passive use of social media has been found to have a negative impact on our mood.
Research has found that batching notifications so that they are received at schedules throughout the day can have a positive affect on mood but at Shine Offline we would advise people to be sure not to spend all of their break times on their devices.
By all means stay up to date with the news or what your friends are up to on social media but be sure to have some screen free breaks throughout the day. As Dr Ian says, we work at our best when we have these breaks throughout the day.
The value of getting back to nature
Stepping away from the computer, leaving the phone behind and going outside for a change of scene and a chance to clear your head is priceless during a morning, lunchtime or afternoon break. The value of “forest bathing”, the Japanese term for immersing yourself in green space, has gained a lot of interest in the past few years with research showing the benefits to wellbeing of spending time in nature. If your office isn’t in the middle of the woods however just stepping outside and spending some time in a green space can have similar benefits. And of course, leaving the potentially distracting influence of your phone at your workstation and catching up with a colleague can also be incredibly valuable when it comes to developing good relationships at work.
Reconnect with colleagues
Tech writer and consultant Linda Stone coined the term Continuous Partial Attention back in 1998 as the behaviour of continuously dividing one’s attention. And psychologists report that if we have our smartphone in our hand or pocket at all times many of us are suffering from this condition as a result. Chatting to a colleague on a break, phone in pocket, a little part of our brain is always on the device, wondering when it is going to go off or what is waiting in there for us. And as a result we simply can’t give ourselves over 100% to the person we are with, the thing we are doing. Or immerse ourselves fully in some alone time during a break.
As humans we need breaks. Time to refresh and reload. So after you finish reading how about sticking your phone in the drawer and heading to the kitchen for a cuppa and slice of cake? Your head will thank you for it!
Passive use of email
Batch but still have a break