Give yourself a break

Here’s why UK office workers need to take more breaks during the workday.

Despite what you learned from your parents, keeping your nose to the grindstone constantly may not be the best way to get ahead at work. Many UK office workers seem to think that productivity is measured by the amount of time spent at one’s computer, working continuously from morning to evening.

The truth is that frequent and deliberate breaks – that include more than running to grab coffee and a kebab to eat at your desk – are essential to concentration and true efficiency. And yet most UK workers are not taking their breaks seriously enough, if they take breaks at all.

The UK State of Work Report

A recent survey of 2,051 office workers, highlights four alarming trends that are starting to shape the modern workplace:

Trend #1: The lunch hour is disappearing

57% of office workers either don’t break for lunch at all, or they spend 30 minutes or less grabbing a bite to eat. So much for the lunch “hour.” Only 20% report taking 45–60 minutes for their midday meal.

Trend #2: We’re not answering when nature calls

52% of office workers admit they put off going to the toilet in the last week to meet a deadline, and all but 10% of them are repeat offenders – up to six delayed visits to the loo every week.

Trend #3: Work is following us home

A staggering 77% of those surveyed say they log into work or work email outside of standard business hours during a typical workweek, and 47% do this every day.

Trend #4: Distractions are driving us to distraction

More than half of office workers spend 40% or less of their time performing their primary job duties, thanks to the three biggest daily distractions: unexpected phone calls, wasteful meetings, and excessive emails.

Clearly, the chaos of the workplace is causing most enterprise employees to forego lunch, toilet breaks, and even work-free nights and weekends, not to mention the kinds of daily mental breaks that contribute to better work performance.

Armed with the right kind of knowledge, however, you can be the exception. The following four suggestions will help you get on top of your work so you can actually pause for a sandwich in the middle of the day or go on a quick walk to clear your head in the late afternoon.

Tip #1

Schedule uninterrupted blocks of time for yourself on your team’s shared calendar. (22% of those surveyed say this would improve their productivity.) During those blocks, turn off text and email notifications, don’t answer the phone, and even put a sign on your door or cubicle wall if you need to.

Tip #2

Stop answering email continuously throughout the day. 40% of office workers say excessive emails get in the way of work, so be strategic about how often you enter that inbox. Set aside 2-3 specific chunks of time to read and respond to email, freeing yourself up for longer stretches of time to focus on other things.

Tip #3

Create teamwork agreements in your organisation that specify the “rules” of communication. Define and document an expected turnaround time for email responses, a protocol for handling urgent communications, guidelines around the usage of the “reply all” and “cc” features, and the ability for each individual to set personal boundaries around distractions like email and instant messaging apps.

Tip #4

Streamline team communication using project management software, which automatically collects all collaboration and updates within the context of the projects you’re working on. This will keep conversations prioritised based on the importance and urgency of the project—not by whatever is at the top of your email inbox.

You deserve a break

By gaining control of your schedule and minimising distractions, you’ll be able to take purposeful breaks that energise and recharge you, rather than letting work chaos and random interruptions dominate your workday.

Put these tips into practice in the next few weeks, and you should have plenty of time to join us for the “Big Break,” sponsored by Workfront. You’re invited to unwind at an outdoor relaxation station featuring massage chairs and creative activities, on 12 April 2016 from 11am—2pm at Spitalfields Market in London.

Jada Balster, Marketing Director, EMEA, Workfront

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