Friday 26 April 2024

Why Taking Breaks at Work is Crucial for Wellbeing

Often when we’re working in demanding work environments, taking breaks at work can be perceived as a weakness or a sign of inefficiency. However, it’s important to recognise that our mental and physical wellbeing heavily relies on incorporating breaks into our daily work routine. It’s important that managers ensure their teams are taking regular breaks, no matter how busy they are, otherwise it can lead to employee burnout.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine, found that “when attempting creative problems requiring a wider search of knowledge, individuals benefit from a period of time in which the problem is set aside prior to further attempts to solve it. The effect of breaks also tends to be better reflected in subjective evaluations of performance and actual creative outputs. Therefore, micro-breaks make individuals feel more vigorous and less fatigued and stimulate them to feel more productive after the break.”

Reasons for taking breaks

As well as providing employees with physical rest, even just a short break at work can help preserve mental wellbeing and increase levels of motivation.

1. Increased productivity
Contrary to popular belief, taking regular breaks at work can actually enhance productivity. Research has shown that our brains have a limited capacity to sustain attention, and prolonged periods of focused work can result in reduced concentration and cognitive overload. By incorporating breaks into our work routine, we give our minds the opportunity to rest and recharge. This, in turn, improves our cognitive functioning, enhances creativity and boosts productivity levels.

2. Improved focus and concentration
Continuous work for long periods can lead to mental and physical fatigue and decreased focus. By scheduling regular breaks, we allow our minds to reset and refocus, enabling us to maintain a higher level of concentration throughout the day. Short breaks, such as taking a walk, doing light stretching exercises or simply enjoying a chat with our colleagues, provide the necessary distraction for mental rejuvenation, resulting in improved focus when we return to work.

3. Stress reduction
Work-related stress has become increasingly prevalent in today's society. Over time, overwhelming workloads, tight deadlines and demanding responsibilities can take a toll on our mental health. However, incorporating breaks into our work routine can significantly alleviate stress levels. Breaks function as a mechanism for stress relief, allowing us to distance ourselves from work-related pressures momentarily. Engaging in relaxation activities during breaks, such as deep breathing exercises or mindful meditation, can further enhance stress reduction and promote a sense of calm.

4. Improved physical health
The benefits of taking breaks extend beyond mental wellbeing. Integrating short breaks throughout the working day can have a positive impact on our physical health as well. Prolonged periods of sitting or engaging in repetitive tasks can lead to musculoskeletal issues, eye strain and reduced overall physical fitness. Regular breaks provide opportunities for movement and physical activity, helping to reduce such risks. Taking short walks or engaging in some form of physical exercise during breaks not only energises the body but also improves blood circulation and posture.

5. Enhanced work-life balance
By prioritising breaks and establishing boundaries between work and our personal life, we contribute to achieving a healthier work-life balance. Continuous work without breaks can blur the line between professional and personal life, leading to burnout and strain on relationships both inside and outside our place of work. By ensuring we take regular breaks, we acknowledge the importance of self-care and allocate time for personal rejuvenation, resulting in a more fulfilling and balanced life overall.

So, let us embrace the notion that by pausing to recharge our minds, we are actually optimising our performance and cultivating a positive work environment. Remember, a healthy mind is a productive mind!

Thursday 18 April 2024

Rejuvenate the Workforce with an Office Spring Clean

As the season of spring progresses, it brings with it a fresh energy and a sense of renewal. While many consider spring cleaning as an activity solely meant for households, its benefits extend far beyond just tidying up our living spaces. In fact, embracing a spring-cleaning mindset within our workplaces can have a transformative impact on our mental wellbeing.

A study undertaken by Elizabeth (Libby) J. Sander et al, showed that “our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behaviour, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.”

Reasons for spring cleaning the office

To create a positive environment  
A cluttered and disorganised workspace can negatively impact our mental state, leading to increased stress, reduced concentration and decreased creativity. On the other hand, a clean and organised work environment helps maintain a positive mindset, promoting a sense of calm and clarity. By dedicating time to deep clean our workplaces each spring, we can create a physical space that supports our overall mental wellbeing.

To support productivity
An untidy workspace not only hinders our ability to focus but also wastes valuable time as we struggle to locate essential items and documents. Spring cleaning provides an opportunity to declutter and organise our workspace, enabling us to work more efficiently. Removing unnecessary items and organising essential supplies helps streamline our workflow, reducing distractions and saving time. By dedicating a little effort to spring cleaning, we are investing in our mental wellbeing and enhancing our productivity.

To help reduce stress levels
A cluttered environment can contribute to heightened stress levels. In contrast, a clean workspace promotes a sense of calm, reducing mental and emotional burdens. The act of spring cleaning allows us to let go of physical and mental clutter, resulting in reduced anxiety and a lighter state of mind. Additionally, cleaning can be a therapeutic process in itself, providing a sense of accomplishment and control over our surroundings. Through regular 'spring-cleaning', we can proactively manage stress in the workplace, leading to increased mental wellbeing.

To boost collaboration and team spirit
A neglected and disorganised workspace can hinder communication and collaboration among team members. Engaging in spring cleaning as a team, can help colleagues bond over a shared task, building a sense of camaraderie and unity. Collaborating on cleaning tasks helps develop stronger relationships, breaks down hierarchies and encourages open communication. A clean and inviting workspace also presents a positive image to clients and visitors, reinforcing a sense of professionalism and instilling confidence in the organisation.

To maintain a clean and healthy environment
An unclean workplace can harbour germs, allergens and other potential health hazards. This is especially crucial considering the current global climate, which highlights the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. Regular spring cleaning allows us to remove dust, allergens and bacteria, providing a healthier working environment for everyone. A clean workspace also signifies the value we place on our health and the health of those we work with.

Spring cleaning the workplace is not just a physical activity but also an essential practice to nurture our mental wellbeing. By creating a cleaner and more positive environment, we lay the foundation for a harmonious and fulfilling work experience. As we spring into action, we can harness the transformative energy and invest in the wellbeing of our working environment.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Managing Parenthood and Full Time Employment

Gone are the days when women were expected to stay at home to look after the children while the man went out to work. Not only is the nuclear family no longer the ‘norm’, but many parents aspire to being successful in both their career and parenthood.

Whether you’re a single parent or in a relationship, juggling parenthood and full-time employment can certainly be tricky, and exhausting, at times. If you continue to struggle with the pressures of work, household chores, and looking after young children, you might start to suffer from anxiety, overwhelm and stress, which will eventually lead to burnout.

Not everyone finds the pressures of managing a successful career and parenthood a walk in the park. Juggling all the responsibilities of full-time employment and raising children can leave very little time for relaxation or social activities.

Because many of us want to appear as if we have everything under control and we worry what our boss or colleagues might think of us if we show any signs of struggling, we continue in silence and avoid asking for help.

Nowadays, companies have a responsibility to assist working parents and offer alternatives for their work situation. Being unable to work overtime due to parental responsibilities, for example, shouldn’t mean that you can’t do your job properly during normal working hours.

Ways you can lighten the load

  • Ask your manager for flexible working hours. If you discuss your situation with management, they may help you devise a plan that will assist you, such as working from home a couple of days a week. Lunch time and the time you’ll save from commuting could free up much-needed time where you could perhaps catch up on some household chores.
  • If your workload is unmanageable and it starts to eat into your home life, speak to your boss about how they can help. Maybe they can allocate some of your tasks to a colleague or extend the deadlines.
  • If you’re in a relationship, ensure you share parental responsibilities. Perhaps one of you can focus on the morning routine while the other takes care of the evening routine. That way it can relieve some of the pressure for both of you. 
  • Be more organised. We often get stressed because we don’t have any plans in place so the morning rush seeing to the kids and yourself and getting to work can seem frenzied. Make a plan the night before of what you need to do, or even prepare things such as packed lunches, PE kit, changing bag etc. You could even make meals in a slow cooker to save time when you get home from work.
  • Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. Try not to compete with other parents who might have more free time than you. There’s no pressure to bake the best cakes for the school fayre or volunteer for the parent’s committee! Although they might be nice to do, decide whether or not they are priorities.
  • Make time for yourself either alone or as a family. When you do more of what you enjoy, your mental wellbeing will be in much better shape, meaning you’re more able to cope with any challenges and tasks that lie ahead. You might want to consider recruiting a childminder, friend or family member so that you enjoy some much-needed time off.