Balancing breaks and billables

health well-being work/life balance

In our home, there’s one more weekend before the start of the school year (Minnesota schools typically start after Labor Day; I know many of your schools are already back in session.)

That means a few more late nights watching our favorite streaming shows with our teenagers.

One more weekend trip to the cabin for Labor Day weekend.

One trip to the State Fair (we are huge State Fair fans!).

A few more days of the summer “un-schedule” where we are juggling our teenagers’ work commitments, social commitments, packing/cleaning for our college student, and a lack of any semblance of consistency from day to day. Whether or not you have kids at home, most of us have a “summer” schedule and a “rest of the year” schedule.

But now the time has come for all of us (if it hasn’t already) to shift from summer rhythm to fall or “school year” rhythm.

Predictable times to get out the door, get to work, get home from work, the evening routine, etc. Fewer Friday afternoons off or long weekends. Fewer longer lunches outside or patio happy hours.

But what does that mean for your work schedule? 

Are you also going to slip back into (or continue) your pedal-to-the-metal work pace, powering through all day until you slam the computer shut and run out the door to race home?

Or are you taking enough time during your days to take a little break, recharge, refuel, and come back to your work refreshed and re-energized

It’s been proven time and time again that taking breaks during your work day is good for your well-being and your performance.

“Counter to the popular narrative of working long work hours, our research suggests that taking breaks within work hours not only does not detract from performance, but can help boost it,” suggest Zhanna Lyubykh and Duygu Biricik Gulseren in their Harvard Business Review article, “How to Take Better Breaks at Work, According to Research.”

Lyubykh and Gulseren go on to suggest that  “employee performance has always been a concern for organizations, and more organizations are making efforts to address employee well-being today. Work breaks as a promising tool to improve both.”

In the legal profession, this feels counterintuitive. Many of us work within the billable hour system. Time is, literally, money. Breaks aren’t billable. 

Our to-do lists are too long, and it feels like breaks just delay getting work done.

But what if you came back to your work fresher, faster, happier, more innovative, and more productive after a meaningful break? 

That’s exactly what research shows breaks help you do!

Researcher John Trougakos, associate professor of management at the University of Toronto Scarborough found that “disconnecting from work can do wonders for people’s energy and mindset.”

But not all breaks are created equal, according to this fascinating article: “Researchers also found evidence of something most of us know from observation: Not all breaks are created equal. To get the full benefit of a break, you must completely disconnect from work. Ideally, stand up from your desk and walk away from your computer.”

So - for the sake of your well-being and your performance - find some time to take some short breaks throughout the day. Those breaks might be the best thing you do for your work and your mental health! 

Let me know what you do throughout the day to take a break to restore your brain, your body, your energy, and your focus. Your performance and your well-being (and maybe even your employer once they see the benefits) will thank you!