Written by: Tess DiNapoli
Did you know that taking more breaks throughout your workday can actually make you a more diligent and effective employee?
Management styles are evolving fast, and the days of employees feeling obligated to grind through lunch breaks are quickly being phased out in favor of big-picture methods like focusing more on employees’ long-term mental health and workplace satisfaction.
These days, many employers are actively pushing for employees to take frequent breathers throughout the day, and they’re seeing great results. It’s not surprising — according to The New York Times, scientific studies have shown that taking regular breaks makes employees more creative and productive while keeping exhaustion and stress at bay.
Reducing Stress Improves Your Health
If you’ve ever felt stressed at work, you know that it can be overwhelming. When your thoughts are racing a mile a minute, it’s difficult to regain focus. You can get caught in a loop where you stress about your stressed feelings, and it keeps compounding. Taking a step back and clearing your head is a simple and effective way to combat that overwhelming feeling before it takes control.
Beyond giving you a chance to gather your thoughts and gain some perspective, taking breaks when you’re stressed out improves your long-term health. Excessive stress can lead to a number of physical health problems including headaches, high blood pressure, an upset stomach, and many other significant physical conditions, as well as emotional struggles such as depression and anxiety.
Coping with workplace stress isn’t always easy; however, just a quick stroll around the office parking lot when the opportunity arises makes a big difference in how you function. According to a study performed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “…even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.”
Sunshine Is Good for the Body and Mind
It’s clear that taking breaks is beneficial, but spending those breaks outside is actually a great way to amplify the positive effects associated with taking breaks.
According to Harvard Medical School, going outside provides numerous health benefits. The increase of vitamin D provided by sunlight can help to prevent heart conditions, cancer, depression, and other health issues. Sunlight also makes people more cheerful which naturally leads to increased productivity. Have you ever noticed how you work harder when you’re feeling upbeat? That’s not a coincidence!
Ecotherapy Calms Stress and Boosts Moods
Although it’s not technically a legitimate medical term, Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is a term used to describe how many humans don’t interact with nature as much as was once common.
Today’s largely digital world often demands that many professionals spend the majority of their time in front of a screen instead of appreciating the simple beauty of Earth’s many splendors. Have you ever felt a tinge of existential joy after seeing a colorful bird or a newly bloomed flower? There’s more to that reaction than you may think — there’s even a scientific field called “Ecotherapy” that specifically studies this phenomenon and how it affects how we feel.
Ecotherapy research has shown that interacting with nature is powerful. Just being around natural spaces can actually reduce stress hormones and lower your blood pressure. Simply watching the clouds go by or admiring a majestic tree can calm you in a way that you just can’t get inside your office’s break room.
While the best approach to Ecotherapy is to actually get outside and simply relax, you may even be able to enjoy the benefits of indoors. Studies have shown that just listening to nature sounds while working can have a similar effect to taking a stroll through the woods. You can also decorate with plants to bring the magic of nature into an otherwise sterile office.
Taking Breaks Outside Increases Worker Satisfaction
Employees want to feel valued, and they want to be proud of their positions. While the importance of relaxation as a productivity tool is clear, it’s easy to overlook the power of freedom in the workplace. When bosses are hypervigilant about checking the clock and micromanaging breaks, employees are naturally going to feel stifled and undervalued.
To keep employees engaged both short and long-term, it’s vital that managers are able to find a balance between hands-on and hands-off management. Many employees work better on their own because they value being trusted. Allowing employees to take frequent breaks outside can be one way to build this sense of trust and can, ultimately, lead to employees feeling happier in their position.
Find Time to Connect with Nature
Unfortunately, not every job is going to allow employees the freedom to go for a run or bike during work hours. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the benefits of outdoor breaks. If you’re a full-time employee, you’re required to receive a lunch break — consider using that time as an opportunity to get outside and explore your local surroundings or take a quick lap around the block. You might be surprised by how just 30 minutes of sitting in the sun can break up your day!
Getting outside doesn’t have to be confined to only your workday. There are also plenty of fun outdoor workout activities you can incorporate into your lifestyle while you’re off the clock. For example, you could ride your bicycle to work instead of driving, or you could wake up an hour early so you can go for a jog before work. Just making time to get outside — on and off the clock — more will make you a happier, healthier, and more well-rounded individual.
Be Kind to Yourself
Of course, if your wellness routine is causing you stress, don’t push it. The goal of adding more outdoor time to your schedule is to unwind and enjoy a stress-free space whenever your day allows it, not force yourself to take on new obligations. Try not to view your time outdoors as a tightly scheduled activity, but as a blessing that you can enjoy when it makes sense.
Be reasonable with your expectations. Start by just taking a five-minute walk during your lunch break and build from there as it makes sense. As you adjust to this new approach, you’ll start to recognize when the timing is right.
Spending your breaks outdoors is also a great way to connect with your co-workers, so why not invite your cubicle neighbor out for a picnic or to a restaurant with outdoor seating? Sometimes a change of scenery and some good company is all you need to fall in love with your job again.
Author Bio: Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a
passion for yoga and interest in pop culture, and writes about everything from fashion to
wellness and fitness.