Boost your productivity with microbreaks (posted on 22.09.2016)

One of the best kept secrets of highly productive people is that they take regular ‘micro’ breaks throughout the day. There is growing evidence to support the link between recovery and engagement, productivity and health.

The way we work today in today’s technology rich, omnipresent environment is shaping our lives in a way that is both enabling and disabling. We’re ‘on’ 24/7 and are sitting more than ever (9.5hrs average a day according to HBR2013). We are now more in tune with the needs of our technology than our own. Can you imagine leaving the house for the day without a means to re-charge your smartphone, laptop, or tablet? Unthinkable. Yet how many of us feel our own internal battery starting to run low during the course of the day and carry on regardless; tired, finding it hard to focus on work, a little more impatient and irritable than when we started the day??

The human body is designed to work in cycles; our systems constantly oscillate over the 24hr period. However when we try and override our natural rhythm by working in a linear fashion that is constantly ‘on’ (or ‘off’ in some cases), it impacts our energy, engagement, health and happiness.   We end the working day with nothing left in the tank, and those at home get the leftovers. Our sympathetic nervous system needs a regular break, our mental focus needs a regular break, our high-energy emotions need a regular break, our body needs a regular break from the stress we put on it sitting all day. When we are ‘plugging in’ our own charger on a regular basis throughout the day it can have a profoundly positive effect on our physical, metal and emotional energy.

Ironically, it’s one thing smokers do well. We don’t question our colleagues who take regular breaks to smoke, yet if the non-smoking colleagues would mirror those same micro breaks outside without the cigarette their colleagues would think they’re mad, and their boss think they are shirking! Now obviously I’m not advocating we should all start smoking, far from it, however we could learn a thing or two from our smoking colleagues. They are regularly taking a mental break from their work, getting some movement in, getting outdoors, and connecting socially with their colleagues. It would just be a whole lot healthier without the cigarettes!

So what do we mean by micro break and how can you incorporate this into your workplace?

We often consider work breaks to be taking our allocated holidays, an extended weekend, a proper lunch break or on a smaller scale our 11am coffee break. And these are still important to recovering and revitalizing yet in order that we can stay energized, productive and healthy all day we need to start building micro breaks into the day every 50 minutes to an hour. These can last anything from 1 minute to 5 minutes.

Some ideas you could incorporate into your workplace include:

  • Get up from the desk every 50 minutes, even just to strecth
  • Alternate mentally a demanding task with a more rote task
  • Take regular trips to the water machine
  • Do 1 minute of deep breathing
  • Listen to music
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Meditate
  • Go for a run/ walk at lunchtime
  • Talk to a colleague about non work topics
  • Connect with a family member
  • Create a realistic to do list at the start of the day
  • Learn to say ‘no’
  • Take healthy snacks to work
  • Switch off e-mails and mobiles phones for 30 minute blocks
  • Schedule meetings to only last 45 minutes, leaving time for recovery breaks before the next one.
  • Star jumps!


Try promoting mircobreaks into your workplace today and feel the difference.