Viewpoint: Taking a Break at Work

It seems like there's always more work to do, and not enough hours in the day. Are you making taking a break a priority during your workday, or are you letting your R&R slide?

Today's blog features guest blogger Arnel Arevalo taking on the tough topic of taking a breather at work. Arnel is the Business Office Assistant at The Canterbury, a senior living facility in Rancho Palos Verdes.

We all want to finish our daily tasks at work. We might even want to finish some of tomorrow's extra tasks while we're at it. But if you do manage to finish all those designated tasks, odds are you're not taking advantage of that free time as actual free time. After all, it's the norm to look for something else to do: you fix up your desk, you add more paper in everyone's printer, you make tomorrow's to-do list, you even take the time to go through training after training focused on boosting productivity and efficiency, all because conventional wisdom tells us that improving productivity is the way up the ladder to promotions and raises.

During your performance evaluation, are you more likely to proudly say you work through your breaks, or would you say you make sure to take regular breaks during the workday to reset and refresh? You'd probably say the former, but you should be saying you take regular breaks, given the positive boost a break can lend your productivity.

Instead of just seeking to finish that endless list of today's tasks, tomorrow's tasks, and the next week's tasks, how about taking a few minutes to slow down and take a break, even if it's something you're not used to? Sure, we all want to be efficient and earn our keep, but taking a break should be just as much a part of our day as sleeping or eating. In fact, regular periods of rest throughout the day can prevent burnouts and improve our response to stress.

So let's ask ourselves: why do bosses often overlook the fact that a well-rested worker is a more effective worker? Why do we ourselves perceive rest as something we should feel guilty about? I know personally, every time my supervisor passes by my desk, I feel like I should be doing something and try to make it evident that I've got a lot of hard work going on. I don't even want to clean my desk too much for fear of giving the impression that I have nothing to do.  But it doesn't have to be like this—and managers and supervisors should not only recognize the value of a break, but encourage and enforce it with their employees, as well.

But even with supportive leaders in your workplace, it's on you to make the time to take a break. How do we get to that point? Obviously, working efficiently helps, and that's when your work ethic and skills really shine, and that training we talked about earlier can help you to be your best.  Free time begets free time: to perform your best, you need a healthy body and a healthy mind, and to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind, you need (you guessed it) to be well rested. And that means making the time to take those breaks so you can do your best.

So the next time someone asks you whether you work through your breaks or you take the time to give yourself some rest and relaxation, what are you going to say?

Arnel Arevalo currently works at the Canterbury, a beautiful retirement community in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. He has worked as a direct care staff, an activities director, and now as assistant to the Director of Business Services. He and his wife are busy raising an 11-year old boy and a 7-year old girl. They all take frequent rest breaks and hope you do too.