break from work

How to Take a Better Break From Work & Why You Should Do It

***Updated on 19 April, 2021

Taking a break from work is good for our mental and physical health

2020 has been a rollercoaster year. We’ve all had to adapt to new working environments quickly. Amongst everything we’ve had to do, have you had a chance to recharge yet? Do you take regular breaks during the workday? Or have you been running on adrenaline for months?

A recent study of over 3000 executives found that nearly two-thirds feel stressed and anxious at work, and four in five see themselves at risk of burnout. Working from home has blurred work-home boundaries, and some people are working much longer hours. Working from home can also make it harder to switch off mentally from work when it’s so easy to be available all the time.

However, resting well is just as important for your productivity as working well. For challenging tasks that require sustained attention, a brief and better break from work can restore motivation and help us stay focused on the task.

Breaks are also important for our mental health and wellbeing. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and burnout.

So how can you make sure that you’re taking quality breaks? What sort of breaks help you work better? Today we share our top tips for taking a better break from work.

Tip #1 – Review your work patterns

If you feel like you’re at risk of burnout, it’s time to review your work habits and understand how you’re spending your time. Tools like Microsoft Teams MyAnalytics can help you understand your work patterns, and work out potential improvements such as adding in focused time, or scheduled breaks.

Tip #2 – Scheduled breaks

The first step to making sure that you get breaks is schedule them into your calendar consciously. If you’re frequently working over lunch, or have back-to-back meetings, try blocking out time in your calendar. This way, others can’t fill up your calendar with back-to-back meetings, and you can get calendar reminders to have a break.

break from work

It’s especially important to protect your lunch break. Lunch breaks shield us from stress, exhaustion and burnout. Eating a healthy lunch is also important for our physical health and energy levels. Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between lunch breaks and employee engagement.

Tip #3 – Movement breaks

Many knowledge workers spend most of their workday at a desk or in front of a screen. But constant sitting can put you at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. But even a 5-minute walk every hour can improve your health. So schedule in some movement breaks in your day – stretch out your legs, do some yoga, or walk around the block.

As a bonus, research has shown that a walking break leads to more creative ideas than a sitting break. So get away from your desk and take a movement break!

Tip #4 – Mindful breaks

Be mindful of the quality of your breaks. Disconnect from work and all devices. If you’re taking a walking break, try and pay attention to the streetscape – the trees, the birds, or even the sky. Connecting with nature is especially calming on the mind.

You can also try short meditations or even just 30 seconds of slow, deep breaths. Whatever you choose, remember that mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed doesn’t count as a real break.

mindful break

Tip #5 – Creative breaks

If your work requires you to use your analytical, logical left-brain, then choosing an activity that uses the creative right-brain can be a great way to take a break. Drawing, doodling, or sketching can all be great 5 minute breaks. The key is to use a different part of your brain.

Taking quality breaks is not only great for our productivity, but it’s also important for our mental health. So don’t underestimate the power of taking a break!

Being tired at the end of the day doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working hard or being productive, or achieving your goals. At PEP, we say that it’s not just doing things the right way that matters – doing the right things matters too. Our PEP program has given clients up to two extra hours a day to spend on the things that really matter, whether that’s work or family. We have also developed a Remote Program to help you work from home more effectively. Learn how PEP has helped our clients to increase their productivity and improve wellbeing.

By Simon Nicholls

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