Working from home has become a new normal for a lot of companies. On the employer side, it means cutting back on operational costs and access to a broader range of talented candidates. On the employee side, it means no more long commutes, more flexibility in your day, and you can sometimes stay in your pajamas all day. However, when your office is just a couple of steps from your bed, it’s more important than ever to set boundaries and separate your work life from your personal life.
Working from home should not look like spending a day in an office, so here’s how to productively incorporate breaks into your workday.
Plan out your day to include breaks.
Anyone working from home has experienced what I call the time warp. You make your coffee, you sit down, start working, and BAM, it’s suddenly 3 o’clock, and you haven’t moved from your desk all day. It’s easy to fall into this, but staring non-stop at a screen for hours isn’t good for you. You need to block out your breaks on your calendar and set reminders for them. AND FOLLOW THROUGH! Make sure you take those breaks when you’re supposed to. Whatever you’re working on will still be there in 5 minutes when you’re done.
Make sure your break is away from work.
Be sure to get up and walk away from your computer during these breaks. Browsing the internet during these breaks will not turn off your brain and allow you to reset. Read a couple of pages of a book, call a friend, get a snack, anything that gets you away from your computer and takes your mind off work is perfect. If you have time for a quick walk, a change of scenery is always an excellent way to break the monotony of staring at your laptop.
Be flexible with your time.
While planning your day is essential, don’t hold yourself to it too strictly. If you are on a roll and working productively, don’t break the flow – you can take that 5-minute break when you hit a lull in your creative workflow. And if you’re stuck on something and can’t figure it out, take a break early to allow yourself to come back with fresh eyes. Try to set aside contingency time in your schedule (think white open spaces on your calendar) to help you avoid stress when you can’t stick to your scheduled breaks.
Communicate with your team when you need a break.
Sometimes you need more than a quick five- or 15-minute break. It’s relatively easy to tell when a coworker needs a break when they’re in the cubicle next to you, but not so much when you’re just messaging over Slack. When you reach a point where you need to go on a more extended break to be able to be productive again, make sure you tell your team. You don’t need one of your coworkers to be sending you 15 messages about a task when you’re trying to reset. You also don’t need them wondering why you aren’t replying. Let them know that you are taking a break and will respond to any messages when you’re back.
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