How Often Should You Take Breaks When Working From Home?

Man taking break, working from home.
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A common challenge for many remote workers is taking a break from their actual work. 

It’s really easy to get into a routine of working on a project and not stepping away to give your mind and body a break. 

And if you are like me, once I start a project I don’t want to stop until it’s finished. But this is when it’s easy to end up sitting for hours, missing a lunch break, and causing potential burnout. 

Trust me, I’ve been there! 

When you are working from home, it’s best to take multiple shorter breaks than a longer one during your workday. Take a 5-10 minute break every hour, where you step away from your computer and desk. If you find that is too frequent, you can mix it up to suit your needs. 

But let’s break this down further. What are the benefits of taking frequent breaks when working from home? What can happen if you don’t take breaks? What should you do when you are taking breaks at home? 

How Often Should You Take A Break When Working From Home?

Although working from home has many benefits, it can still be stressful for those not prepared or who are not taking breaks. 

For example, a study by the United Nations shows that 30% of people who work from home report feeling “highly stressed” compared to 25% of those who work on-site.

It’s why ensuring you are taking personal time off and frequent breaks during your workday is highly important. 

How often should you take a break from sitting at your computer?

When you work on a computer often, you should take 5-10 minute breaks every hour. This helps your mind and body feel better and more productive. And generally, you should have the support and freedom to take breaks as you see fit, as long as it’s not disrupting your work quality. 

  • Best time to take breaks when working from home: 5-10 minutes every hour
  • Time you should take for a lunch break when working from home: 30 minutes to 1 hour

However, there are numerous studies that have discovered varying times for taking breaks. Ultimately, it’s what works best for you and makes you most productive. As well as the type of work that you do. 

Here are a few of what different studies suggest:

  • A University of Illinois study cited before suggests taking a break once every hour.
  • Inc. Magazine suggests that highly productive workers should take a break every 60-90 minutes.
  • The Pomodoro Technique is about breaking your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by 5-minute breaks. Those time intervals are referred to as pomodoros and after four pomodoros, you should take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.

Taking breaks when working from home example

Here’s an example of my break schedule when working from home. I work 9 AM – 5:30 PM.

TimeWork or Break
9:00 AM – 9:55 AMWork (55 mins)
9:55 AM – 10:00 AMBreak (5 mins)
10:00 AM  – 10:55 AMWork (55 mins)
10:55 AM – 11:00 AMBreak (5 mins)
11:00 AM – 11:55 AMWork (55 mins)
11:55 AM – 12:00 PMBreak (5 mins)
12:00 PM – 1:00 PMWork (60 mins)
1:00 PM – 1:30 PMLunch (30 mins)
1:30 PM – 2:30 PMWork (60 mins)
2:30 PM – 2:35 PMBreak (5 mins)
2:35 PM – 3:30 PMWork (55 mins)
3:30 PM – 3:35 PMBreak (5 mins)
3:35 PM – 4:35 PMWork (60 mins)
4:35 PM – 4:40 PMBreak (5 mins)
4:40 PM – 5:30 PMWork (50 mins)
  • Total Break Time: 60 minutes (1 hour)
  • Total Work Time:  450 minutes (7.5 hours)

Now, this is just an example of my work from home break schedule. But you might want to set yours up differently. Like you might want to have a few 10-minute breaks instead of multiple 5-minute ones like I have. 

Typically, you’ll also have the freedom to make your break schedule that best fits your needs. And hopefully, you work for a company with strong remote work policies and supports you taking consistent breaks to be your most productive self. 

But if not, head over to this list of the Top 100 Companies Hiring Remotely. It might be time for a change in companies to find one that is more supportive of taking breaks for your physical and mental health. 

Does every role need to take a break when working from home?

Frequent breaks are recommended for any job role when you are working from home. You might not be able to adhere to the recommended frequency and break times, but ensuring you have some break time every few hours is important to stay sharp and productive. 

What Happens If You Don’t Take Frequent Breaks When Working From Home?

If you do not take enough breaks when working from home, you may start to notice your performance slipping and stress levels increasing. But here are a few things you’ll notice without taking periodic breaks throughout your workday: 

  • Lack of productivity and efficiency 
  • Loss of motivation in your work 
  • Burnout and feeling overwhelmed
  • Strain on your physical and mental health
  • Losing your work life balance
  • Reduced energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Unhappiness and negative feelings towards work/team/company
  • Having trouble sleeping consistently 
  • Creativity and problem solving become impaired
  • Getting sick more often due to not taking care of yourself

Believe me, none of the above is fun to go through and it can slowly creep up without you noticing for a while. 

I certainly had a period of time when working remotely where I started to experience some of these issues. And 95% of it was due to me not taking proper breaks, eating lunch, and doing something productive when I did remember to take breaks. 

What Are the Benefits of Taking Breaks When You Work from Home?

There are numerous benefits of taking frequent breaks when you work from home. Below are some common ones, but you might also experience other positives by having a solid break schedule. 

  • You’ll be more energized and focused
  • Your stress levels will improve
  • You’ll feel more creative
  • Decrease in physical pain (back, neck, etc.)
  • You start to build healthier habits
  • Improves your work motivation levels
  • Helps you problem-solve more effectively
  • Gives your brain a chance to reset
  • Better work-life balance throughout the week

Beyond these common benefits above, you may also discover other positives as you perfect your break schedule when working from home.

How Do You Take Effective Breaks When Working from Home?

So you have your breaks schedule when working from home, what should you do during them? 

The short answer is anything that gives your mind and body a rest from your work and sitting in front of your computer. 

This should be the time you stop doing anything work-related, even if it’s tempting to knock out small tasks. If you want to improve your productivity and overall work-life balance, then stepping away from your actual work is key. 

Here are a few options to consider during your breaks: 

  • Stretch or do some basic exercise
  • Go for short walks in your neighborhood
  • Read a few chapters of a book you’re interested in
  • Take a short power nap
  • Consider some meditation
  • Listen to some music 
  • Have a snack, coffee, or tea break
  • Clean up or organize your desk 
  • Take care of some household chores
  • Catch up with friends, family, or co-workers (just don’t talk about work projects!)
  • Just go sit outside and catch some fresh air
  • Do some light journaling 
  • Work on your hobby

What I did not include here is browsing the internet, scrolling on your phone, or watching television. 

While shopping on your favorite e-commerce store, watching Youtube, or catching up on a favorite Netflix show may not be work-related, it’s still screen time that can strain your eyes and mind. 

If you go that route, just limit your screen time breaks or put something on that you can listen to without constantly staring at your screen during your breaks. 

How to Stick to Your Break Schedule 

It can be tough to stick to a break schedule when working remotely. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in a project or task without even noticing that you miss a few breaks. You probably tell yourself you’ll take a break, but slowly over time, you’re not taking proper breaks. 

I’ve been there and you probably have or currently are stuck. 

The way that I have personally solved this is by actually scheduling my breaks. You can do this in different ways, but here are two that can work well:

  • Set alarms on your phone for all the break times you want to be scheduled. And stick to those alerts! If you are stuck on an important call or meeting, then you can delay it but otherwise when the alarm goes off, take that deserved break!
  • Add your breaks to your work email calendar. Similar to your phone, but if you prefer calendars then set recurring breaks for your weekdays. These reminders will also pop up so you ensure you know when it’s break time. 

Understandably, you can easily ignore or dismiss your alerts. But if you make a commitment to stick to this schedule and take your breaks, it becomes habitual. 

Final Thoughts

Taking frequent breaks throughout your workday is one of the best ways to improve productivity and your overall health. This is especially important when you work from home full-time and even part-time too. 

Personally, I like taking 1 -1.5 hours total of breaks, broken up into numerous smaller increments (besides lunch, which is a bit longer). 

While there are numerous studies with various recommendations on break times, they all agree on one thing: taking breaks when working from home is a must! 

Remember, some of the best things you can do during your breaks should be something that does one (or all) of the following:  

  • Keeps your focus away from work
  • Allows you to not look at your computer screen
  • Helps you get out of sitting in your office chair
  • Gives your brain a chance to decompress 
  • Creates some social interaction 
  • Allows you to think about nothing

Happy Remote Working! 

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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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