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Though many managers accustomed to traditional office spaces — where they can keep a watchful eye on their employees — fear that allowing their teams to partially or fully telecommute will result in decreased productivity, most remote workers face the opposite problem: they find it difficult to step away from work, once their home and workspace merge.
But company leaders shouldn’t jump to rejoice in this fact. Remote employee wellness should be a top priority for any manager, and a lack of routine breaks has actually proven to be counterproductive, as it increases stress levels and, hence, errors in judgment and execution. Studies have shown that “brief diversions vastly improve focus.”
“Constant stimulation is registered by our brain as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,” said Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois. An example of this phenomenon is how most people are unaware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin. Likewise, he believes that prolonged periods of focus on a task at hand can lead to declined performance.
At GroWrk, we’re dedicated to helping companies around the world understand and address the needs of their remote workforce. Today, we’re taking a look at the importance of not only allowing, but actively encouraging your work-from-home team to schedule breaks to improve the health and wellness of remote employees.
Taking mindful breaks should not be confused with slacking off. Activities such as scrolling social media, catching up on the latest outrageous news cycle, or venting to a coworker about a higher-than-normal workload will not yield the positive results that true breaks offer.
For a break to be productive, you should physically remove yourself from your workspace. (For remote workers, this is made easier by having a specific area of their home designated as a workspace, which we also advocate strongly, and can help you set up for your team.)
The key is to be intentional about your break-taking. Marta Brzosko, writer of The Practical Guide to Taking Breaks at Work, describes the ideal break as something that brings you joy. She advises to make a conscious choice of when to have a break (so, as stated earlier, no mindless hopping from work tabs to social media tabs), to know the purpose of their breaks, and to pick activities that align with that purpose. Stretching, doing the dishes, taking the dog out for a brisk stroll, or even just hitting up a nearby coffee shop for a midday treat will do the trick.
There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for how often, and how long, to take breaks from work. Not all jobs require the same level of focus, or the same amount of hours. In fact, two different people with the same position can have huge variations in how exactly they go about getting their tasks done.
The Atlantic reports quite a specific formula, claiming that 17-minute breaks after every 52 minutes of focused work is the general sweet spot. For others, 90-minute segments of work followed by 15-20 minutes of leisure is ideal.
Each work scenario is unique, and it’s up to managers to communicate to their teams that they understand the necessity of routinely taking time to reset throughout the day. And since remote workers are out of sight, it’s important to encourage them to find their personal rhythm, so managers and co-workers can loosely familiarize themselves with each other’s workflow, and be flexible about it.
Though many remote work skeptics argue that it can lead to isolation, burnout, and a general lack of human connection, the world has found that this does not have to be the case. Being strategic about a pivot to a partial or full remote work model is key to unlocking all of its benefits, among them, making it easier for each individual employee to customize their approach to productivity in their particular remote work environments.
While a traditional office is hardly accommodating to every person’s idea of the perfect break, working from home allows for a diverse range of activities that can be easily squeezed in-between moments of high focus. This unique boon has the capability of staving off stress and burnout, and so increasing happiness, fulfillment, and all-around remote worker wellbeing.
Check out how GroWrk’s platform can help you manage all the needs of your remote workforce!