Ways to seamlessly build breaks into your working day

Regular, tailored breaks will not only make your workdays manageable but will lead you towards increased productivity, creativity and overall job satisfaction, writes Dola Saha

Dola Saha 's avatar
5 Jul 2024
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“Amid projects and assignments that never seem to cease, 
Soft whispers of rest promise a welcome release. 
In the midst of targets, goals and deadlines, a break to find, 
Renews notions, rejuvenates ideas and revitalizes state of mind!”

I wrote these lines of poetry during one of my work breaks, important moments that not only help me maintain focus and mental well-being but also improve productivity. Way back in 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor highlighted the need for breaks and rests to improve productivity in his book, The Principles of Scientific Management. According to a 2022 Lancet study by Susan E Peters et al, work and worker health in a post-pandemic era is a public health issue.

While workers are adjusting and bouncing back into new work schedules and work demands, organisations and governments have become proactive in supporting healthy working environments. It is time to relook at our workdays to build methods to incorporate meaningful breaks and rests and reduce stress. 

Each workplace is different, and each job role has its diverse set of demands and challenges, so breaks and rests need to be creatively and thoughtfully built into each working day before fatigue sets in and in just the right measure so that lethargy does not overcome us. I’ve compiled the following methods to make your work breaks productive for your body and soul.

Pomodoro technique 

This technique involves taking a five-minute break after every 25 minutes and a longer break after four of these cycles. It is a productive technique for those whose work is mostly open-ended and could take unlimited amounts of time. A break could be simply looking away from your desktop screen to blink consciously, drink water or do some simple desk stretches. Ensure you set yourself some timers to keep on top of things. 

Outdoor stretching

Getting some fresh air and sunlight is important, so get up and walk the grounds of your campus or visit your favourite coffee shop. Stretch mindfully as you do it, and convert it into a social break by briefly interacting with friends and colleagues you meet on your travels. Remember, breaks can be useful networking opportunities!

Digital detox 

Consciously take time away from your digital screens and engage in other non-screen activities to prevent digital fatigue. 

Hobbies and interest breaks 

Incorporate hobbies and interests into your breaks to pursue hobbies or interests you enjoy, such as working on a puzzle or brain teaser, writing poems and motivational messages for colleagues, reading jokes, listening to your favourite music, drawing, reading aloud or learning desk drumming. 

Getting back to nature

Having small potted plants on your desk and taking breaks to water, nurture or simply see and appreciate them can be great for mental health and for your working environment in general. 


Join your office sports team and use breaks during your workday to practise. This way, you can improve your mental and physical health while creating bonds with your colleagues. 


Set a timer to focus entirely on your breathing to reset and refocus yourself. Alternatively, look at, touch, listen, smell and taste something to give yourself a “five senses break” and ground yourself in the present moment. 

Other options include taking micro-breaks, hydration breaks, moments to daydream and reminisce on some happy memories, and looking at photos of family and friends or calling them to let them know you’re thinking about them. The key is to find a balance that works for you and your work style. Regular, tailored breaks will not only make your workdays manageable but will lead you towards increased productivity, creativity and overall job satisfaction.

Dola Saha is assistant professor (selection grade) in the department of health information management at Manipal College of Health Professions, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India.

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