Ever heard the term ‘workaholic’? You might not consider yourself to be one, but it is an easy trap to fall into as a remote worker.
You may think that working from home offers you a greater ability to be present at home. Time wasted on commuting in the past can become time spent with your family.
In actual fact, working remotely can make it even more difficult to switch off. When we are left to our own devices, the line between work and downtime can easily become blurred. And, eventually, this could lead to reduced productivity and a poor state of mind.
We are not robots. A shocking revelation, I know. We cannot expect ourselves to concentrate for eight hours straight. Even if we try, it’s not possible. Different research articles will offer different answers as to how long the human brain can focus. Some say forty minutes, some say two hours. They are all in agreement, though, that the period of time for which we can concentrate is relatively short and our prefrontal cortex – the part of our brain that allows us to focus – cannot function for extended periods of time without a break in between.
This is why 15-20 minute breaks at various intervals throughout your working day are so important.
It’s called ‘waking rest’. It is a period of quiet and respite from focused thought. A work break, like sleep, is essential for cognitive function in terms of memory consolidation and learning. So, take a walk, make a coffee, lie in a quiet room. Anything that requires little thought and helps you to relax.
When we allow ourselves time to recover from a period of concentration, we bounce back with renewed energy and therefore are more productive, or mentally able to complete the task at hand. Taking time out allows us to process information better and reflect on what we have been doing, creating room to think about things from a new perspective.
Cerebral congestion, overloading of the brain, can cause headaches and an ever-encroaching fear of the mountainous workload that faces you. So, another added benefit of taking a break is relief from this kind of pressure.
All of these factors contribute to the UK government’s reasoning for legally enforcing our right to one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break during a working day of more than 6 hours. Also, we should take 11 hours rest between working days and an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week or an uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight.
Remote workers must regulate themselves, knowing the government guidelines are helpful. Signalling to colleagues that you will be taking breaks and leaving the screen will help remind them to do the same. Breaks will increase your productivity and may even improve your sleep.