The Importance of Breaks When Working Remotely
Over the last year and a half, many of us have become very familiar with remote working, whether we had prior experience with it or not. By now, we might consider ourselves experts at this whole “working away from the office” lark.
However, as those of us who aren't heading back to the office become more relaxed into the new remote working regime and it increasingly becomes the (oh no, I’m going to use the dreaded phrase) ‘new normal’, sometimes this means we can start to develop poor habits.
I’m not talking about raiding the fridge a little more than we should or working from the comfort of our beds, but more about how we spend our working hours.
There is a misconception that remote workers often find themselves falling prey to, and this is the idea that they need to be 100% present, at their laptop or workstation, through their entire working hours.
Think about this for a moment.
In a physical workplace, you likely wouldn’t think twice about getting up to go to the toilet or take a walk to a colleague’s desk, just to check-in and see how they are, or to talk about work things.
You wouldn’t hesitate to engage with your colleagues, talking about your weekend, or a funny thing your pet did yesterday.
You likely wouldn’t go without a tea/coffee/water break when you knew you needed one.
So why wouldn’t you do these things when you are working remotely?
It can be incredibly easy, when you are busy, to sit down at your office space in the morning, log onto your system and then not move for the rest of the day, begrudging even the eventual need to go to the toilet, or if your doorbell rings.
This working pattern is unhealthy and unnecessary. So how can we help ourselves to get back to that better-balanced way of working?
Check out our Time management for remote workers workshop.
Here are a few areas to think about.
1. Take a screen break
Working for hours on end looking at a screen is not good for your eye health or your cognitive capacity. It is super important to take regular breaks, where you don’t look at a screen. (Swapping from your laptop to your phone is not a screen break!)
And worse still, we can often feel guilty for taking this time away from our systems.
Think of this time as your tea-making, walking-across-the-office, going-to-reception-time in a physical office space. You are allowed to take screen breaks. No one should be looking at their monitor for 7+hours a day.
2. Take your lunch break (away from your desk)
It can be incredibly tempting to eat your lunch at your desk, so you can get some more work done, especially during those exceptionally busy times.
But it is really important to get some time away from your workload. Lunch is a dedicated time for you, to get a break away from the screen (see the point above) and to meet your needs as a human.
We often look for convenience, speed, and the easiest route so we can get back to whatever it was we were doing. But you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a dedicated lunch break. Sometimes, it can be the reset button you need to feel reinvigorated for your afternoon.
3. Get outside
Let’s not forget the importance of fresh air and the act of stretching our legs. Not only is it good for your physical health (we are not built to sit at a desk for as long as we do!) but it’s great for your mental health too.
Getting outside, even just for five minutes can help to get you realigned for your afternoon. It can refocus your mind, relax your eyes, and relieve some of that tension in your shoulders you didn’t even know was there.
4. Tea and bathroom breaks are okay
How often have you caught yourself putting off going to the bathroom or going to make a drink because “I just need to do one more thing”? Too often.
As remote workers, it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to prove how much we are working.
Because we cannot be seen by our managers, we have this deep desire to show them how hardworking we are; by instantly responding to every email, every chat message, every request.
It is not a crime to take five minutes to go to the bathroom or make a coffee. Think about it; would you have delayed this much in an office setting? Probably not.
5. Watch your hours
The temptation to keep going until your work is done can be strong. You get into the mindset of “Just one more thing, just one more thing”, but adopting this thought process is condemning yourself to shovel snow while it is still snowing.
If your work is anything like ours, you will never hit the bottom of that to-do list; that is not how work-life goes. And that’s okay.
You must manage your time effectively. You have a certain number of hours in the day to achieve as much as you can and you must recognize when enough is enough.
The temptation of no commute means many remote workers go over their hours in a bid to maximize their output. The reality is, you may experience burnout quicker.
Keep an eye on your time and remember; you have one head, two hands, and only so many hours in a day.
The rules and requirements are different in every business, but we implore you not to forget to take care of yourself during this time of working remotely. It is important that you look after yourself now more than ever.
And if you needed a little help, or you think your team could use some pointers, check out our Virtual Workshop - How to Succeed as a Remote Worker, where we can give you all the tips and tricks you need to thrive.