Do you ever find yourself working for hours on end sitting in an office chair without getting up to take a break? This is not uncommon, in fact most people either do not know or forget to take breaks when working long hours sitting in one position. Whether you work full time or part-time from home or in a traditional workplace setting, it is still important to take breaks. Taking breaks while working long hours is essential and crucial to your health.
Employers may need to think about the environment in which their work takes place in order to develop an adequate plan for allowing time for breaks. For jobs which are full time, two shorter breaks is often adequate. People who work behind a computer all day should take a break every hour or so and be able to get up and move round. This enables them from being in a seated posture all day staring at the screen. People who work in highly repetitive jobs should be offered more frequent shorter breaks in order to prevent boredom which can result in a decrease in productivity, a decrease in proficiency, and less mistakes. There are many reasons why regular breaks are important; here are just a few.
- Circulation is impaired by prolonged sitting: When you sit in static postures where you are not moving, circulation can be impeded. When blood flow to an active muscle is impaired, the oxygen supply is diminished, which over time can impair muscle function. The feeling of fatigue often is related to circulation and blood supply.
- Working on the computer distorts the awareness of time: When working for long hours on the computer most people do not take breaks frequently enough, nor do they realize how much time has passed since they began working. An easy way to eliminate this problem is to make sure people take regular breaks by using time reminders.
- Burnout: People who work continually face complete burnout and what good is a burnt out employee? Physical exhaustion can lead to problems such as chronic headaches, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and trouble sleeping at night. Even if all you take is 15 minutes during an 8 hour work day, you can use that time to refresh yourself and feel more energized the rest of the work day.
- Productivity: Many studies have revealed that workers who take breaks are dramatically more productive during the day as opposed to those who do not. After a break, your performance levels increase dramatically so that you can tackle tasks again with renewed vigor and finish them accurately. Mistakes are also made more when you do not refresh your mind and body.
- Heart Risks: After researchers in Finland conducted a study on a group of nearly 800 workers over the span of 28 years, they found that subjects who failed to find time to recover from their workweek were more likely to eventually die of cardiovascular disease. If people are not able to relax periodically, plaques can build up in their arteries which contribute to potential heart attacks and or strokes.
- Stress: Focusing on a tedious task for too long can easily lead to physical and mental stress. Stress as most know, can lead to serious implications for our health. Common consequences of stress include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor fitness, low resistance to viruses, and serious illnesses. If something that is being worked on becomes too stressful, it is best to take a break from it and resume the work once calm and collected.
- Repetitive Stress Injuries: Especially for those that sit at a desk all day staring at a computer, it is easy to develop repetitive stress injuries such as eyestrain from staring at a computer screen too long. Carpal Tunnel is also another injury which can develop from spending too much time typing and not typing in the proper position. Sitting in an office chair too long generally leads to wanting to fidget and move posture, most of the time into improper posture. By not sitting correctly and having adequate lumbar support, back and neck pain is sure to develop.
When starting your new routine of taking breaks, start small with 5 minute breaks and work your way up in about a week or two. Taking breaks at work cannot be considered being lazy, especially when you take short meaningful ones. There is no harm in trying, but there is harm in not trying.