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When A Cuppa Will Do You Good: Brief Breaks & Productivity

When A Cuppa Will Do You Good: Brief Breaks & Productivity

    There are points when the only thing you can do — despite desperately wanting to be productive — is to step back for a few minutes. And while conventional productivity wisdom seems to dictate that you should use those few minutes to get a small task done or get a bit ahead on a future project, there are often situations when the best thing you can do is to sit down for a nice cup of tea (or the relaxing activity of your choice). I picked up the habit a while back and taking those little breaks have actually increased my productivity. Try stopping for a few minutes when…

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    …You’re Frustrated

    If a given project is about to drive you over the edge, you need to step back. Try to get some distance or some insight. But switching over to a new task when you’re already wound up and frustrated just means that your irritation is going to be transferred to your new task. Sure, you may get that little bit of work done and out of the way, but you’re going to continue to be frustrated through that task and on to the next one. Taking even a few minutes can help you decide just why you’re frustrated and what you can do about it — you may even get a side order of inspiration with your cup of tea and think up a new approach to your problem.

    …You’re Feeling Poorly

    Trying to push on through your daily tasks when you’re feeling sick can be worth less than you think. If you over exert yourself when you are already tired or sick, you may just wind up needing to redo tasks, rather than getting ahead on what you need to do. If you’re like me, though, the idea of taking a day off or going back to bed just doesn’t seem like an option. But slowing down can make sure that I actually do get things done on a day when I feel pretty bad. Sure, I may not get some smaller tasks done while I’m sipping on my tea, but I can probably work through my most important tasks.

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    …You’ve Been At It Too Long

    We all have different breaking points, but each of us have that point where, if we don’t go and do something different, we’ll go a bit nutty. I learned during the good old days in college that if I wanted to pull an all-nighter, I had to plan to get up and take a walk every hour or so, or I’d get so flat out bored and tired of my project that I would fall asleep on my keyboard. Getting up to make a cup of tea, get a drink or take a quick walk around the office not only gives your brain a chance to refresh itself; it also gives you a chance to stretch and maybe avoid that case of carpal tunnel you’ve been working towards.

    …You Have A Short Wait

    In any given project, odds are pretty good that you’ll have a short wait here and there: waiting for a graphic to render or an email to arrive or whatever. As a general rule, if I expect that wait to be under five minutes, I refuse to start anything new. Sure, I might need a short break away from the project, but I don’t necessarily want to derail my train of thought to the point that working on something entirely different would entail. Getting up to get a cuppa will keep me from getting overly distracted during those five minutes, but won’t cause me to lose the focus I need to keep working on a project.

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    …You Reach A Set Interval

    After you’ve been working for long enough, you just have to get up and move around a bit. I actually set a timer to go off every twenty minutes to remind me to just stretch. While I don’t think that getting up every twenty minutes just for a cup of tea — or getting up at all that often — is ideal, getting up out of your chair on a regular basis is a good idea. You might set a timer for once every few hours or so. Of course, this sort of break is easy to ignore when you hit your stride. I often work through my timer when I’m on a roll. But after working through that timer a time or two, I find that I absolutely have to get up and move. It’s up to you to find an interval that works, as well as a reason to get up — after all, there are only so many cups of tea a person can drink in a given day. But there are plenty of options: exercise, snacks, even set activities like walking down to pick up your mail can be enough to provide you with a short break.

    …You’re Thirsty

    Even if you’re almost done with a project, it can be worth it to take care of those nagging bodily needs. You may think you can ignore it just a little bit longer, but any distraction can be enough to decrease the quality of work. It’s rare that you’re so close to done and so close to deadline that you can’t afford a few minutes to get a drink or whatever else needs doing. While I’m all for suffering for one’s art, I don’t think being thirsty quite qualifies.

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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