Working From Home: Taking Breaks

Why take breaks?

It's easy to feel guilty about leaving your desk, especially when you have heavy workloads and tight deadlines. But contrary to what you might think, more hours in front of the PC does not automatically mean more hours' productivity.

According to a Trades Union Congress (TUC) analysis, while Britons employed full-time worked an average of 42 hours a week in 2018, their productivity was 14.6% less than their counterparts in Germany working 1.8 hours less, and 23.5% less than the Danes, who work over 4 hours less per week.

Graph showing productivity in European countries and effect of taking breaks

Breaks are not just important for your emotional and mental wellbeing, but current research suggests that they also contribute to greater productivity overall.

Taking breaks away from your desk allows the brain to process and retain information. When your brain in not in a 'focused' state, it relaxes into a 'daydream' type state which some studies show is where we solve difficult problems. How many times have you had an amazing idea just before you go to sleep? Or in the shower?

If you force your brain to stay in its 'focused' state, the most you are likely to achieve is burnout.

Working desk

How to work from home effectively - Free online course

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What should I do on my breaks?

Importantly for mental wellbeing, breaks can help you cultivate healthier habits. When you're busy and stressed, healthy habits such as eating nutritious meals, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep can take a back seat. By taking proper breaks, you can take the time to incorporate healthy habits back into your normal working day.

On your next lunch break, take the time to prepare a healthy lunch with plenty of vegetables and protein. It doesn't need to be fancy, a salad with some added nuts, pulses, and dressing would do. Or a wrap with some chicken, hummus, and vegetables. Not only does a well-prepared meal boost your energy levels and mood, but it has been shown that deficiencies in some key nutrients - such as vitamin A, B, C and E, and zinc, iron and selenium - can weaken parts of your immune system, making your body more susceptible to illness, and slower to recover.

During a break, you should try to get some exercise in. This can be anything from a 20-minute run to a 5-minute walk. Physical exercise is both physically and mentally beneficial: it helps stimulate brain activity, alleviates pain caused by sitting down for too long in one position, boosts mood, and helps defend the body against serious conditions such as heart disease. Getting outside is also beneficial for mental health. Research has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

people running

Exercising your eyes is really important if you do a lot of screen work. Remember the rule: 20-20-20. Medical professionals recommend that you look away from your screen every 20 minutes and focus on an item at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Doing this will reduce headaches and eye strain.

How often should I take a break?

To answer this question on taking breaks, it can help to think about your day as comprised less by hours and minutes, and more in tomatoes.

Tomatoes showing the taking Breaks Pomodoro method

Eh?

It's not as outlandish as it sounds! What I'm describing is a simple method called the Pomodoro technique, which can help you focus your energy, while also giving yourself small, regular rewards.

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by then university student Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo was struggling to focus on his studies and complete assignments. Feeling overwhelmed, he asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer, and the Pomodoro technique was born.

It's very simple. Choose a task you'd like to get done and set a timer for 25 minutes. Give your whole attention to that task until the timer rings and then take a 5-minute break. For every 4 pomodoros (so, every 2 hours), take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.

What does a day of pomodoros look like?

Work
9:00-11:00 (4 pomodoros)Break
11:00-11:30
Work
11:30-1:30 (4 pomodoros)
Lunch
1:30-2:30
Work
2:30-3:30 (2 pomodoros)
Break
3:30-4:00
Work
4:00-5:00 (2 pomodoros)

In this hypothetical example, we are still working to a 9-5 schedule, but with more targeted breaks and less procrastination. It's worth bearing in mind that you can be flexible with this approach - if you feel like you can focus for 50 minutes, set the timer for 50 minutes and reward yourself with a 10-minute break. The key is to separate time dedicated to work, and time dedicated to relaxation.

Taking Breaks

To summarise, there are many things you can do while working from home that will both boost productivity and personal wellbeing. The key takeaway is not just to take regular breaks, but to be mindful of how you're spending your breaks. We recommend taking at least a 5-10 minute break every hour, and spending that time away from the desk, preferably going outside.

Take some exercise, even if it is some simple stretches or a short walk, and prepare some nutritious meals and snacks for yourself to power through the working (from home) day!

How to work from home effectively - Free online course

Our free online short course will show you how to get the most out of homeworking. Covering your home office set-up and suggesting simple changes you can make to your routine to help maintain good physical and mental health.

About the Author

Emily Reed is an e-learning designer at Kinch Robinson. Developing our library of online e-learning courses specifically aimed at legal and claims professionals.

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Free Taster Session – Motor Claims Liability Training

Join us on Tuesday 17 November to discover how you can use our online motor claim liability training to rapidly improve your team's skills.

  • Do you manage a team who make liability decisions in motor claims?
  • Do you want them to make better decisions?
  • Are you looking for an effective online training solution?

Our free one hour taster session will be taking place between 1PM-2PM via Zoom and hosted by barrister Roxanne Frantzis.

Session Ended

However you can still watch the taster session online

Why is our liability e-learning so effective?

Our short, interactive scenarios encourage a systematic approach to making road traffic accident (RTA) liability decisions. Each scenario refers to the relevant rules in the Highway Code, highlights the evidence required, and provides an analysis of the claim from both parties' perspectives.

The training is great for facilitated live sessions or alternatively learners can study online at their own pace. Full management tracking also allows you to identify problems and address them early.

So please take advantage of our free motor claims liability training taster session. Alternatively you can  contact Jody on 07717 750042 with any questions.

17 November 2020 1PM
1 hour
Online/Zoom
Free
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New e-learning designer joins the team

We are pleased to welcome the newest member of the Kinch Robinson team, Rachel Carr!

Rachel will be joining us as an e-learning designer. Helping to develop our ever growing library of online e-learning courses specifically designed for legal and claims professionals.

In 2020, Rachel achieved a first class degree in psychology at the University of Nottingham. She also has over three years experience of creating bespoke e-learning materials in the education sector.

At Kinch Robinson we believe 'training shouldn't be draining', and our e-learning content is kept interesting by our designers utilising a range of media. From videos and animation to interactive exercises and testing, our courses are the most efficient and cost effective way to train.

We are excited to see Rachel apply her e-learning designer skills to our current range of courses as well as help develop the next generation of interactive online training solutions.

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How to get live-online training that really works

Considering a live online training course provider?

Put your training provider on the spot. Just ask some not-so-tricky questions and all will be revealed.

  1. Can you run a short trial session? The answer should be "Yes, of course". This is a great way to iron out lots of possible problems in advance, so that they don't foul up the session itself. Ideally your provider should set up the trial with you or a colleague using the same software and equipment (laptop, camera, headset) as the delegates who will attend the session itself.
  2. How well do your tutors know the meetings software? It's worth pushing for specific assurances that they are well-rehearsed and know their way around every function they will deploy on the course. (We make all our tutors run at least two practice sessions. The first one is sometimes full of glitches - which is excellent because the more mistakes they make when it doesn't matter, the fewer they’ll make when it does. By the second practice session they always boss it completely).
  3. Do your tutors know how to present online? Good question, because the lazy ones will try to convince you there’s nothing different about working "on camera". It's very different: it needs good technique, it takes practise, and not everyone can do it.
  4. Have you stress-tested your online Joining Instructions? In other words, do they really work? Will people know where to click, where not to…
  5. How will you support the people who don't read the Joining Instructions? (Because you know that most people don’t read them thoroughly, and some don't read them at all). The answers you’re looking for might be:
    1. We'll publish a "Joining Time", not a start time. When everybody shows up at the last minute, we'll greet them as they appear, and check their audio/visual connection. If everything's working fine, we'll bung them in a breakout room for a chat with their colleagues until everyone has arrived.
    2. Our IT trouble-shooter will be there at the start. You need someone like Sally Austin. Sally is our fabulous IT Manager who liaises with client IT departments (i.e. speaks their language), welcomes everyone to our courses, and makes sure they're connected and ready to learn.
    3. Our IT trouble-shooter won’t disappear. People click on the wrong button, their audio gives up the ghost, their connection fails. Whenever there's a problem, you need someone like Sally to be all over it until it's sorted. Beware the provider who says their tutor can simultaneously spot an IT glitch, fix it quickly, and carry on leading the course. They're having you on.
  6. How will your online course be different from your normal face-to-face courses? This question will tease out what the provider is doing to ensure that online delivery will be effective.
    1. Printed materials (preferably). They free up screen space and give your people something else, and something tactile, to look at.
    2. Fewer materials. (always helpful if printing is not an option).
    3. Adjusted content. Most of our courses involve people in making decisions and then learning from discussion and feedback. We haven’t made any huge changes, but there have been lots and lots of minor adjustments to cater for not being "in the room".
    4. Shorter sessions. They work well, but everything takes a little longer online, so ask how the provider is planning to ensure there will be no rush and no late finishes.
    5. More breaks. Otherwise people will tune out or just endure the training, rather than engaging. Tutors who give precise instructions about re-start times have almost no late returners.
    6. Breakout rooms. People really like being left to get on with whatever you've asked them to do - with the option to call on the tutor for help.
    7. Polls. Everyone loves a poll. And they're brilliant for generating discussion, especially if you get split decision. Who voted "yes"? Why? Talk me through your thinking? Now for the "No" voters…

Get in touch if you're looking for support to deliver the PSC or online skills courses.

Image of an online meeting

Feedback from our live training

"I thought the online delivery worked really well. The use of polls and breakout rooms almost made the session more interactive than the normal face-to-face sessions. I really enjoyed the course."

"IT coped very well. As good as face-to-face teaching. Use of polls a good addition. Online delivery definitely a serious option to be used in future."

"Honestly can't believe how well done this course was considering the nature of the content (advocacy), it ran very smoothly and Olivia (tutor) was fantastic."

"My scepticism about attending the whole three-day course online quickly disappeared. I thought Zoom worked really well with hardly any technical issues and I still felt that we got exposure to advocacy and the skills that are demanded. I'd like to thank the Kinch Robinson team for always making the training really fun and engaging!"

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Delivering the PSC by live remote learning

We have been delivering our PSC courses remotely since the start of the lockdown and the feedback from clients and delegates has been fantastic.

We have taken a lot of care to adapt the courses for online delivery and ensure that we provide IT support to make the experience as smooth as possible.

Here's a selection of what the trainees have said:

'I thought the online delivery worked really well. The use of polls and breakout rooms almost made the session more interactive than the normal face-to-face sessions. I really enjoyed the course.'

'IT coped very well. As good as face-to-face teaching. Use of polls a good addition. Online delivery definitely a serious option to be used in future.'

'I thought it was delivered very well. I recently undertook my elective PSC course from XXXXXXX a few weeks ago. This was also an online session. I can safely say this (your course) was 1000x more engaging and enjoyable.'

'Honestly can't believe how well done this course was considering the nature of the content (advocacy), it ran very smoothly and Olivia (tutor) was fantastic.'

'My scepticism about attending the whole three-day course online quickly disappeared. I thought Zoom worked really well with hardly any technical issues and I still felt that we got exposure to advocacy and the skills that are demanded. I'd like to thank the Kinch Robinson team for always making the training really fun and engaging!'

To find out more about delivering PSC courses remotely, call Kath Kinch on 07748 968433.

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