9 creative ways to make yourself take breaks at work

Ieva Sipola 8.11.2017

Almost every office around the world has certain types of “inhabitants”. In fact, you’ll probably find some of these characters in your workplace too.

There’s the Organizer who always seems to be coordinating lunch, smoking break or the next office party. There’s the Chatter and the Smoker, and the Coffee Junkie who seems to walk a mile weekly between his desk and the coffee machine.

Silently in the corner sits the Hard Worker – probably an introvert technical genius or a diligent administrative worker. One has to wonder – does he ever get up to eat, drink or even go to the loo?

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If you also happen to find yourself at 6PM and stuck to your chair with sore eyes and a cramp in your back, it’s time to change your work habits. Scientists agree that short breaks from work actually improve your productivity, restore your energy levels and have a long-term positive impact on your well-being.

Read these healthy – and rather original – hacks that can make your workday more sound and keep you in good shape.    

1. Set a reminder to walk or exercise

The easiest way to make or break a habit is to set a reminder.

You can simply set one on your phone or use one of the many reminder apps for your phone (Randomly Remind Me, Time Out) or your computer (Awareness). Alternatively, use a wristwatch like Mi Band that monitors your body and vibrates every hour or two hours (depending on the intervals you set), inviting you to take a walk or exercise.

DeskTime users can now set the break reminders right inside the app. These popups are disabled by default, but you can activate them any time by right-clicking on the DeskTime icon on your computer. You can choose to see the reminder every 52, 60 or 90 minutes.

The reminders will urge you to step away from the computer, drink some water or perform any other action. 

If your office is big enough, you can walk the corridors for five minutes and look busy. Alternatively, go for a short stroll around the building or walk to the nearest shop.

If you are serious about making your workday routine more healthy, check out this compilation of office workouts for the real-life working environment. Every exercise is rated by difficulty, sweatiness, and even humiliation level, letting you choose the workout that best fits your office conditions and your overall comfort feeling at work.

2. Find common interests with your colleagues

Many of us tend to look busy, bored and boring when we do our office jobs. This is misleading – look deeper, and you’ll discover that every person has an interesting hobby and something exciting to tell.

Use common projects or any other less official setting like your lunch break or office party to get to know your colleagues and find common interests. This way, you will be more eager to take small breaks to chat with your co-workers, share your experiences and maybe even come up with some out-of-office activities.

Research shows that employees who have friends at work have higher levels of job satisfaction, retention, AND productivity. However, you don’t need to be a scientist to know that friendly colleagues make us happy to go to work every morning!

We spend a huge part of our lives at work (roughly 90k hours over our lifetime!), making it an ideal place to nurture the positive connections we all need to stay healthy and happy. But beware of getting too distracted or gossiping – it only fosters a negative environment that alienates other co-workers.

3. Use the Pomodoro technique

You have probably heard about this world-famous productivity method that helps to focus, avoid distractions and get things done in short intervals. The great thing about the Pomodoro Technique – it also includes frequent breaks that urge you to take some air and relax. The main idea behind it is to break down large tasks or a series of tasks into short, timed intervals or “Pomodoros” that are spaced out by short breaks.

Here, at DeskTime, we have found a slightly different breaking pattern to be more productive. After studying the work habits of the top 10% most productive employees, we discovered the secret to be 52 minutes of intensive, purposeful work and 17 minutes of determined breaking. The choice is yours – experiment and find the working cycle that suits you best, but make sure that breaks are a part of it!

4. Take breaks in pairs or groups

If you are working in a team or sitting close to a friendly colleague, make an arrangement to take a short break every hour. Get up, stretch, get some fresh air or simply walk around for a bit – a small step for the office worker is a giant leap for avoiding the doctor!

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Changing the setting for your meeting or work session is another great idea when working in a pair or group.

For example, try brainstorming or having a meeting outside – you’ll be surprised at the quality of the ideas you generate! If outside is not an option, choose a different room or even another place in the same room. Changing your seating will do your body a big favour, as well as boost your creativity and productivity.

5. Take advantage of human’s natural needs

If nothing else can force you to take a break, nature can. (Try saying “no” to it!)

For example, drinking a lot of water is a healthy solution for taking frequent bathroom breaks, and it is 100% guaranteed to work.

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Scientists never tire of reminding us about the importance of drinking enough water every day. By doing this, you can accomplish two healthy goals – hydration and frequent breaking. Having trouble remembering to drink more water? These fun and useful tips are guaranteed to help.

Another way to turn our physiological needs into a beneficial habit is taking two small meals instead of one big lunch. This healthy practice will also make you less sleepy after eating and give you more quality resting time.

6. Work from home and do small chores

If you are a freelancer or work from home occasionally, and still have the same problem of not taking breaks, note down a short to-do list for household tasks.

For example, do the laundry at 12:00, hang it to dry at 14:00, wash the dishes at 16:00, etc. Don’t feel guilty about taking these short breaks – they amount to the same time you spend at the office, having brief conversations or taking coffee with your colleagues.

7. Use alternative (less comfy) seating

Curiously, there are numerous less comfortable alternatives to your office chair that actually have many benefits for your health. Apart from the obvious advantage of keeping you a bit uncomfortable and thus urging you to take more breaks, these chairs engage different muscles and adjust your posture.

Try one of these, and you will never get stuck in it for hours without a break! A yoga ball may be the most affordable and accessible solution that works great for your back, improves your posture and makes you take frequent breaks. If you are looking for something more fun, try the Buoy (yes, just like the ocean buoys) that will keep you moving throughout the day.

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8. Book time for persona stuff and social media

Discipline yourself by setting a time to access your social networks or read the news, for example, once in two or three hours. This strategy will prevent your social life from being a constant distraction. Furthermore, it will make you look forward to reading your messages or checking your updates instead of being constantly exposed to the social media notifications.

However, experts would argue that taking a break just to stare at another screen is not the best solution for your eyes. So make sure you still get up, go to another room, walk around and check your messages just as a part of your routine.

To avoid using the screen during your breaks, why not buy such an ‘archaic’ medium as the newspaper or magazine? This way, you will take a break and find out the latest news in a more eye-friendly way.

9. Learn something new every hour

Is there something you have been eager to learn for ages? A foreign language, for example? Set a reminder for every hour (or every two hours) and look forward to it – this way taking a break will no longer feel like an obligation.

Duolingo app is great for setting yourself small challenges for starting (or restarting) to learn a language. You can even pass tests in less than 5 minutes! Various apps offer different learning experiences, like marketing lessons by Google Primer.

The Internet is full of 2-minute podcasts about everything from science to healthier living. Listening to podcasts also doesn’t require you to be staring at a screen during your break. Check out The Lifehacker Staff’s Favorite Podcasts.  

Alternatively, you can buy a book with short tips about a subject that interests you. This way your eyes will relax from the screen, and you will still learn something new a few times per day!

Final words

No matter how hard-working you are or how stressful your job is, the human body is not equipped for countless hours of being seated in one position in front of the screen.

It’s no secret that sitting down is slowly killing you; some even say that “sitting is the new smoking.” In fact, recently researchers have found a link between sitting for too many hours every day and the risk of early death.

The good news is that taking regular quality breaks can significantly reduce this risk. Furthermore, brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your work and raise your productivity levels.

So go ahead, choose your favourite distraction and give yourself a break!

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