When you need a break

he long relaxing summer days, and the holiday, for some, are over. You’re back at your desk, resolving to be more efficient than ever, as autumn creeps in and the days get shorter. Only three months to go until the Christmas holidays, three manically busy months when often your only breathing space is a short break.

After all, you are legally entitled to it. While no one seems to agree on issues such as immigration, Brexit or the right to die with dignity, we’re all of the same mind when it comes to breaks, and indeed employment law stipulates that workers have the right to a 20-minute break after working for 6 hours. In theory, at least.

In practice, it’s even a bit more relaxing than that. Especially when everyone is in front of their computer screens. Does booking your next trip or searching for how to create a vertical allotment in a flat that’s short on horizontal space count as break time?

To answer that, let’s imagine that the time spent sitting in front of the screen, tapping casually on the keys, is considered working time. So in an average eight-hour day, you could take at least three short breaks to have a bit of a breather before getting back to your work. How can you get the most out of your break? Like everything, there are as many good ways of doing this as there are “break-takers”.

But to give you a few ideas, here is our selection of the best ways to take an alternative break!

A slight clarification before we start, apologies to all smokers but this topic doesn’t include the traditional coffee/cigarette breaks that punctuate your day while the delicate scent of smoke from the designated smoking area wafts into the open-plan office. But we’re sure that you already have your habits pretty much sorted so you don’t need any advice from us.

  • The meditation break

We’ll start with the serious stuff. This is about taking ten minutes to refocus and ignore the outside world. Bruno’s just sent an email pointing out a mistake you made and copying in half the company. Inhale. Chantal is speaking loudly on the phone to make herself sound important in the middle of the open-plan office. Exhale. Your goal is to concentrate solely on your breath. You can’t feel it? It’s because your mind has been swamped by other unnecessary nonsense. So concentrate and try to empty your mind.

  • The anti-screen break

For purists, this means not even taking your phone. First move, stand up and head for the lift. The obligatory “Hello, how are you?” to any colleagues you pass, and you’re outside. Walk for ten minutes around the block or in the local park. The key thing here is paying attention to your surroundings. Have you noticed the wonderful facade on that building? How long has that shop been here? Any excuse is good to escape for a few minutes. One potential drawback is that this kind of break is rather less pleasant when it’s pouring with rain and -12°C outside.

  • The total screen break

It takes all sorts to make a world. So if the chirping of birds and fancy architectural stonework is not your bag, don’t panic, there’s bound to be a break that suits you. This time you do need your mobile connection, otherwise your break won’t work. An app like Bliss and a VR headset will propel you into dream worlds, outer space or the ocean bed. A total visual and sound immersion that transports you during your break to far off universes, real or imaginary. If this is your first time, watch out for the after-effects of virtual reality as it can cause inner ear issues when you first use it.

  • The new look break

No, this is not women only. There are a number of options depending on which body part you want to pamper. A manicure session, perhaps? No problem, and this one’s not just for women – everyone is entitled to clean cuticles. A haircut? Some hairdressers will come to your office. To make it easier on the logistical front, they usually stick to a dry shampoo. The perfect beard? Still think that this is a women-only break now? In France and elsewhere, there are companies like Big Moustache that travel far and wide dispensing fabulous beard and moustache trims.

  • Gardening in the office

If you’ve got green fingers and big picture windows, try investing in some plants. Their presence in the workplace makes staff happier and more productive. Or at least that’s what they say. Choosing your own plant to personalise your office is like giving yourself the gift of a little patch of greenery to look after, which has the added benefit of providing a daily dose of relaxation.

Still planning to go to the café for your break?