Taking Breaks #1: Key to Improving Productivity & Work Performance
As Hong Kong enters the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with many parents and their children currently working and learning from home under one roof, the boundaries between work and rest have become even more unclear.
Not only are families at risk of greater stress and growing conflicts – it has a significant impact on Migrant domestic workers (MDW) as well. The heavier workload and longer working hours are causing many MDWs to suffer from exhaustion, poor mental health and low morale. When MDWs are not feeling their best, our families are also affected.
Contrary to popular belief, taking breaks can actually benefit us and our work. research shows that taking micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks and longer breaks can improve our wellbeing and productivity. Regular breaks can boost our work performance too.
In addition, breaks can lower or prevent stress, maintain work performance and reduce the need for a long recovery at the end of the day. Taking lunchtime breaks and detaching from work is helpful as it raises the energy levels at work and decreases exhaustion.
Having social breaks, such as speaking with friends and loved ones, have also been found to be beneficial. Social interactions allow us to share what we are going through, and feel connected with others which is very rejuvenating.
If it is unavoidable that our MDWs start their day early and end late to accommodate our family's needs – especially for MDWs who care for children and the elderly – it is highly recommended to schedule substantial breaks throughout the day. For example, schedule a reasonably long lunch break, mid-morning and mid-afternoon short breaks to recharge.
With many MDW mothers who are far away from their children and families, these breaks can mean a lot. It enables them to not wait until they complete their work tasks to call home – as often it could be late in the night and their children might already be asleep. As such, some MDW mothers can only speak with their children once a week on their only day-off – which does not help to bridge the physical and emotional distance. Some MDWs have shared that their young children could not recognise them during video calls, and their older ones struggle to bond with them across the miles.
This new year, consider setting a goal to take regular breaks to not only improve our productivity and performance at work – but more importantly our mental and physical health! In the same way, as employers of MDWs, let's communicate with our MDW to plan a work timetable; and make it a priority to schedule breaks that work for both our household and our MDW.