8 Ways to Take a Break at Work (and Still Look Busy)


If you spend your day in an office, a cubicle, a dark room, or behind a desk, chances are good that — at some point — you are going to lose focus, your productivity is going to decrease, and your energy level will plummet. Combating those problems can mean the difference between staying ahead of your work or getting behind, getting out of the office on time or staying late, or even impressing your boss or getting on her bad side. (See also: Science Shows You Need to Work Less)

If you can work in breaks, whether they are small ones or a full hour, it is possible to keep your level of productivity and attention to detail at its peak. Here are eight ways you can do just that.

1. Deliver Messages Rather Than Emailing

Instead of sending a short email from your desk, take a walk and deliver the information in person. This little break will get the blood flowing, give you a couple of minutes to think, and allow you to return to work refreshed for a bit longer. Plus, a little face-to-face interaction with your co-workers is great for networking and relationship building.

2. Make Multiple Trips to the Copier

It might be more efficient to save up everything that needs to be copied and do it all at once, but if you find that you are losing focus throughout the day, make two or three trips to the copier to give yourself a break.

3. Split Your Lunch Into Smaller Breaks

If you get an hour for lunch, speak with your boss about breaking that up into three smaller breaks — 30 minutes for lunch and two smaller 15 minute breaks at other times later or earlier in the day. During these times, head outside to get some sunshine and fresh air. Walk around the block or even the parking lot.

4. Utilize the Speaker and Mute Functions on Your Phone

If you are going to be on a long conference call, familiarize yourself with how the speaker and mute buttons work. Use the two of them at the same time while you walk around your office space and listen to the call. The movement will do your body good.

5. Do Simple Exercises at Your Desk

When walking around is not an option, but your body needs a break, try to do some simple stretches or exercises from your desk. There are many videos that show examples of these easy-to-do exercises. These will help release tension from your body and get the blood flowing back to your brain. (See also: 10 No-Sweat Workouts Perfect for the Workplace)

6. Volunteer to Go on an Errand

It could be an errand for your boss, a quick trip to the supply closet, or an afternoon pick-me-up at Starbucks. Whatever it may be, look for opportunities to get out of your space and move around. As an added bonus, those times you offer to run errands makes you look like a team player in the boss's eye.

7. Get a Longer Phone Cord

I once worked at a call center where I was attached to a phone for eight hours a day. Thankfully the phones had longer-than-usual cords, which gave us the opportunity to stand up and pace a short distance during calls, while on hold, or between speaking to customers. These weren't full-fledged breaks, but they did help.

8. Set a Timer to Take a Breath

If walking away from your desk isn't always an option, set a timer to go off every 30 to 45 minutes and then reset it for three or four minutes. (If you are using Google Chrome, there's even an extension for that.) During the reset, close your eyes and take deep, cleansing breaths. Try to relax and shut out any worries you have about work and the stress you are feeling.

If you are finding that your attention wanes at certain times of the day, such as 10 a.m. and then again at 3 p.m., ask your boss for planned breaks during those times. Often, employers will agree to schedule in these breaks because it means more productivity from the employees who slip around the same time every day. You could justify these breaks with your boss by offering to come in 15 minutes earlier or stay a half hour longer. It never hurts to ask for what you need to be a happy employee.

How do you work in an extra break (or two) at work? Please share in comments!

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