How to Take Better Breaks When Working from Home

It’s OK to take breaks at work. Here’s how to recharge your batteries in the right way.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
WFH tips

The switch to working from home has led to many working longer hours than ever before.

As you race to finish your work, it may seem counterproductive to take a break all of a sudden.

However, breaks are just as important as time spent working. They directly impact your ability to get work done.

Numerous studies [1, 2, 3] have shown that taking regular breaks improves productivity at work and helps you focus better.

But not all breaks are made equal.

Taking a breather while browsing social media can be relaxing, but it doesn’t necessarily leave you feeling more energised.

If you‘re looking for ways to take better breaks while working from home, consider some of these ideas to recharge your mind and body.

Set a timer

According to research by productivity app DeskTime, the best way to work is in sprints of around 52 minutes, followed by short breaks of 17 minutes.

This is similar to the Pomodoro technique which breaks your work into 25-minute sprints, with five-minute breaks in between.

Dividing your workday into smaller intervals with breaks comes with benefits.

For one, it allows your brain to work in short sprints followed by time for rest.

This makes it easier to focus on tasks, as the human brain cannot focus for several hours at a stretch.

If you’re someone who struggles to get started with work, this method can give you momentum.

It’s easier to handle tasks if you divide your day into manageable chunks.

Take a walk

If you’re tired or stuck on a difficult problem at work, a walk is one of the best ways to take a short break.

Being out in nature clears your mind and makes you feel refreshed.

Make sure to keep work off your mind during this time to help your brain rest.

Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sunlight on your skin while using this opportunity to stretch your legs.

Muir Woods trails
A walk in nature resets both the mind and body. Photo by Caleb Jones

It doesn’t have to be a long activity.

Even a ten-minute walk can leave you feeling rested and inspired when you get back to work.

You could even turn your walk into a grocery run or any other chore to make it worth your while.

Unleash your creativity

Sometimes, the best way to take a break is to shift focus to a completely different task.

Use your work break to do something creative and fun like painting or sewing.

You could do a crossword or jigsaw puzzle, or build something from scratch with Lego.

Play the ukulele or write a short story.

If you enjoy cooking or baking, you could turn it into a break-time activity just as well.

Such creative breaks are effective at giving your brain much needed rest and keeping you going through the day.

Playing Lego
Planning out short and fun activities for your breaks also makes your workday much more enjoyable. Photo by Amélie Mourichon

What’s more, these creative activities allow you to see things from different perspectives and often help you get past roadblocks at work.

Meditate your stress away

Meditation has been shown to be an excellent way to take a break at work.

It helps reduce stress levels and improves your ability to concentrate.

Whether you’re new to meditation or have been practising for years, there are many apps and programs available to help you out.

Five best meditation apps according to fellow makers

Depending on your comfort level and time available, go for a short meditation to get started.

Over time, you’ll find it easier to meditate and see a marked difference in how you approach work.

Try a quick workout

Working from home = long hours spent sitting in front of the laptop.

To counteract the effects of constantly being sat at a computer, fit in a quick workout during your break.

It comes with many benefits, including improved mood and higher energy levels.

Working out during a lunch break
Working out during your break can reduce stress levels and cut down on food cravings brought on by inactivity. Photo by Karsten Winegeart

A fairly long break offers an opportunity to hit the gym or go for a refreshing swim in a pool.

For shorter breaks, yoga and bodyweight exercises are ideal. You can do them with little to no equipment.

If you struggle to find the energy to exercise at the end of your workday, short workouts could be a better alternative.

There are also numerous exercises that can be done at the desk in less than ten minutes for ultra-short breaks.

Stay hydrated

Feeling foggy and unable to focus at work? You could be dehydrated.

Not drinking enough water can make you feel tired even when you’re well-rested.

Make sure you’re getting enough water — use your break to hydrate yourself. 

You can increase your daily water intake by keeping a water bottle on your desk. Find yourself a reusable bottle in your favourite colour or design to make it an interesting addition to your workspace.

There are many apps that you could use to remind you to drink water throughout the day or meet water-intake goals: try WaterMinder or Hydro Coach.

Merve’s Study Corner in Glasgow, Scotland
Merve’s teal water bottle takes a prominent space on her desk. Source: Merve’s Study Corner in Glasgow, Scotland

Alternatively, you could also make a habit of drinking water every time you take a break. See Habit Stacking.

If water is not your favourite beverage, switch to teas or infused water to increase your intake.

You can also use your break time to snack on water-rich foods like melons and oranges.

Give your eyes a break

All those long hours in front of a screen can quickly take a toll on the eye muscles.

This might result in headaches and blurred vision.

Take care of your eyes. Give them short breaks away from all screens.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Think of it as the equivalent of light stretching for your eyes. 

Keep home office lighting at a level that’s neither too bright nor too dim.

You should be able to see your screen clearly and without much effort.

Some other things you could do to reduce eye strain while working from home are blinking more, increasing your display font size, and changing the lighting in your home office. Photo by Ilya Pavlov

Plan some of your breaks to be a “no screens” time to rest your eyes.

Use these breaks as an opportunity to do chores around the house or take a walk outside, giving your eyes other things to focus on.

Working from a windowless home office?
These 9 proven tricks will make it feel bigger.

Take a nap

Sometimes, the best remedy for tiredness is simply sleeping.

If you’re feeling too tired at work, taking a short nap could be the answer.

Several studies have found that a nap during the day could increase your alertness and problem-solving capacity.

However, too long a nap can make you equally groggy.

According to researchers, the best brain-boosting naps fall between 15 to 30 minutes.

If short naps are impossible for you and you have the time, a 90 to 120-minute nap will let you go through an entire sleep cycle and wake up feeling energised.

Make sure your nap time isn’t too close to the end of the day. Otherwise, it might interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.

A person having a nap on the couch
Naps are healthier than caffeine for your body and brain. If you find yourself reaching for another cup of coffee, take a pause and consider a power nap instead. Photo by Adrian Swancar

The most popular time for a nap while working from home is during the afternoon.

A mid-afternoon nap can help you avoid the dreaded afternoon slump, and leave you feeling refreshed and alert when you wake up.

Mid-afternoon naps are also popular as you can make them a part of your lunch break.

Talk to friends

Working from home can be isolating.

Utilise your break to get in touch with your friends and family.

Talking to a person with a positive attitude can keep your mood up even when you get back to work.

Chatting with friends during your break will help you feel more connected and improve your state of mind.

It also ensures that you avoid thinking of work for a short while, giving your mind some respite during this time.

Grab a healthy snack

It’s tempting to reach for quick and easy snacks when you’re at work.

This is why scheduling snack times during your break is a useful technique. It gives you the time to prepare a healthy snack and avoid mindlessly eating while working.

To keep your energy levels up while you work, it’s important to fuel your body with the right food.

Some easy and healthy snack options include nuts, seeds and fruits.

You can prepare snack boxes in advance with a variety of cut fruits, toasted nuts and cheese to make it easy.

15 Easy WFH breakfasts ready in up to 15 Mins
From Acai bowl and stuffed avo to ham & cheese roll-ups.

Greek yoghurt with fruits or granola, and wholewheat bread with egg, avocado, or nut butter are some other nutritious and filling snack ideas for your work breaks.

Spend time with loved ones

What better way to make the most of working from home than by spending time with your loved ones?

Use your break time to talk, do small chores, or play a board game with your significant other.

Engage with your kids, cuddle your pets, or show some love to your plants.

Use your break as an opportunity to hang out with your family and stock up on those happy hormones.

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WFH tips