Desk Work Hack: Boost Productivity With Frequent Breaks

Humans are not designed to sit for long periods. Doing so can distort the spine, strain muscles, and drain energy levels. A good ergonomic chair can reverse these effects by supporting healthy sitting postures. Adding frequent short breaks can take things to another level.

Learn how microbreaks can supercharge the effects of a healthy ergonomic sitting routine.Integrating regular breaks into a deskwork routine yields three important benefits. First, frequent walking breaks help to ward off the dangers of sedentary behavior. Second, the human brain can only process complex tasks in short bursts.

If you push your brain beyond its limit, both focus and performance degrade.Third, downtime is when the brain does its deepest data processing. By stepping away from a task, your brain gets the time it needs to digest its previous work. Working against these realities makes full-time sitting a drag. By the end of a workday, you will likely feel stiff, sore, and mentally fried.In contrast, working in sync with these principles yields tremendous benefits:

  1. Get more work done in shorter bursts of intense activity.
  2. Physical activity energizes both the body and the mind.
  3. Mental downtime is when the brain’s problem-solving skills work best.

Benefits of Frequent Work Breaks

This section explains how physical and mental efficiency declines when pushed too hard. By taking advantage of this biological reality, desk workers can boost their health and productivity — with less time spent sitting!

Movement boosts physical and mental wellness

A good ergonomic chair will keep your spine in alignment while sitting for long periods. That lessens the physical stress caused by sitting. Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that humans are not designed for sitting! Sitting for long periods underworks muscles, making them weaker over time. Research has also linked extended sitting with increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and fat buildup around the waist.

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positions

spinalcord

vertebraFor long periods, the ergonomic solution is to sit in dynamic neutral positions. The neutral aspect looks the same in all types of ergonomic chairs. Sit with your feet planted, your lower back supported, and your head balanced evenly above the shoulders.The dynamic aspect involves moving while you sit. Neutral posture combined with small position changes is called ‘active’ or ‘dynamic’ sitting.This tactic engages back, leg, and abdominal muscles while you sit. It yields plenty of benefits:

  • Better spinal positioning with less pressure on the vertebrae.
  • Recurring core muscle contractions burn more fat tissue.
  • Increased control and awareness of your body’s position.

Going beyond seated movement

Moving while sitting keeps muscles active. To take this concept to the next level, simply get out of your chair and move your body. That could mean taking a walk, grabbing a drink, or even doing some quick stretches. Esports Physical Therapist Dr. Joshua Lee shared the benefits of mini-exercise breaks with ChairsFX. “The body craves movement. Short rest breaks with exercises are like little snacks. Your body can use these throughout a gaming session to keep you energized.”

Gateway to a Massive Brain Boost

If you suffer fatigue while sitting, test this concept. Get up from your chair and walk around. That will stimulate core muscles and improve circulation. At the same time, stepping away from your task switches the brain from a focused mode to a dreamy, diffused one. That gives it the time it needs to process and store its most recent work. As a result, when you sit down, you’ll feel more energetic, focused, and mentally prepared to handle your desk work challenges.

Mental downtime supercharges cognition

The brain is a voracious energy drain that is never idle. It functions in two operating modes: focused, and ‘diffused’. In diffused mode, it demands 20% of all energy the body produces. In focused mode, power demands only go up by 5-10%. The diffused mode puts the brain in a more relaxed, dreamlike state. This mode swivels powers of reflection away from the external world toward the self. Mental downtime is when the brain can process information.Next time you stumble with a challenging problem, put this to the test. Take a break, wander around, and let your brain find a solution in its diffused state. It works!

Breaks enhances info processing

Matthew Walker is a UC Berkeley psychologist and sleep researcher. His studies show that fact-based memories are first stored in the hippocampus. During downtime, that information goes to the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which has more storage space.Dr. Walker likens the process to an email system. When the email inbox in your hippocampus is full, the brain needs downtime to clear out the emails. Until then, new information will bounce when trying to enter the hippocampus.

Power-naps work well

In the work-from-home era, adding short naps is also a potent option. Studies show that daytime naps help to sharpen concentration and accelerate processing. TCM expert Nan Lu, also endorses the power of daytime naps. As the body relaxes, so will the mind. When the mind relaxes, Qi (internal energy) can flow.

Breaks restore focus on long-term goals

Many middle managers equate staff sitting at their desks with ‘productivity’. In fact, the opposite is true! The average goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. In the smarthphone era, the average human has an attention span of eight seconds. That is because the brain is not designed for extended focus on one thing.On top of that, everything you do throughout a workday subtracts from your cognitive resources. In fact, the brain regards constant stimulation as unimportant, so it erases such from awareness.For instance, most people aren’t aware of the sensation of clothing touching the skin. As the body becomes habituated, the stimulus stops registering in the brain.

Solve Complex Problems By Disengaging

When you start to lose focus at your desk, consider it a sign to take a short break. Doing so will boost your focus and energy levels. Disengaging also gives a better sense of the big picture. Then, it becomes easier to see a broader view.For example, a Stanford study looked at people facing mental challenges needing imagination to solve. It found that walking yielded more creative solutions than sitting.In summary, another benefit of taking breaks is that it lets you disengage from an immediate task. That gives your brain time to process information. It also puts your mind in a diffused state that yields a clearer view of big-picture goals.

Micro-break Integration Methods

If you’re new to the concept of taking frequent breaks, here are two easy methods to help you get started:

Pomodoro method

One of the most popular methods is the super-simple Pomodoro method. One 25-minute work session plus a 5-minute break equals one Pomodoro.

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  2. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break.
  3. After four sessions, take a longer 30-minute break.

90-minute solution

Working in 90-minute intervals syncs with our body’s natural rhythms. Fifty years ago, pioneering sleep researcher Nathan Kleitman documented the “basic rest-activity cycle“.This cycle describes 90-minute periods at night where humans move through five stages of sleep. Kleitman found that our bodies operate by the same 90-minute rhythms during the day.

During waking hours, stages shift from higher to lower alertness. Other researchers call this our “ultradian rhythm.” The gist is to work in 90-minute blocks and then take a break.An alternative is to break when signs of fatigue emerge. When we need rest, our bodies show symptoms.

These include hunger, drowsiness, fidgeting, and a loss of focus.To override these symptoms, many people use caffeine or sugary foods. Some even rely on stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to “power through”. Using the 90-minute solution provides a healthier option that yields more effective results.

Peak performance in 90-minute Blocks

A famous 1993 study of young violinists backs up the 90-minute method. It found that the best violinists all practiced the same way. Each worked in three increments of no more than 90 minutes each.The study found similar patterns among high-performing musicians, writers, chess players, and athletes. In brief:

  1. Take a break every 90 minutes for a fast and easy energy boost.
  2. If you’re feeling drowsy before the 90-minute mark, take a break anyway.

ChairsFX method

Five years ago, I switched from a cheap office chair to a gaming chair. It took me around a month to master healthy neutral sitting habits. That yielded a cascade of wellness benefits.

  1. Using a gaming chair helped me to improve my posture.
  2. With improved posture, I gained more energy, which I expended at the gym.
  3. With improved posture and health, my productivity skyrocketed.

These days, I take a walking break every time I finish a complex task. Sometimes that takes an hour; sometimes it takes 10 minutes. In general, I spend around 15 minutes of every hour walking around.Here are the highlights of my own desk productivity recipe:

Establish good feng shui

Feng shui is a 3000-year-old Chinese art that means “wind water”. Feng shui design is the arrangement of indoor spaces to achieve harmony and balance. Doing so maximizes the flow of positive energy into a space. The point is to increase the positive energy in a room to make its inhabitants happier. For purists, there are thousands of details to consider. For desk workers seeking a productivity edge, stick with the basics:

  1. Clean your office thoroughly before and after work.
  2. Keep your desk clear of clutter.
  3. Your desk should face towards the room’s main entrance.
  4. Working directly in front of or behind a window will drain your energy.
  5. Keep windows open to ensure that fresh air flows into the room. Add plants for more air cleaning power.
  6. If outside noises are a distraction, override them with white noise or nature sounds.
  7. Assemble furnishings that achieve a balance of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood elements.

Following these steps will ensure a clean, welcoming room flowing with positive energy. To learn more, check out our home office setup guide:

Adopt healthy sitting habits

Sitting with poor posture stresses the spine and forces muscles to work harder. From a cognitive perspective, sitting in a powerless, crouched position also stimulates hopelessness. That makes the brain more likely to recall depressive thoughts. Harvard Prof. Amy Cuddy says this has biological roots tracing back to the animal kingdom.

Among all species, body language reflects submission or dominance. When the body curls into a submissive pose, cognitive performance also degrades.In comparison, sitting with good posture relieves back muscles and boosts energy levels. As a result, sitting this way makes people more alert, engaged, and confident.

Take regular breaks

One component of an effective break is psychological detachment. That means mentally disengaging from work thoughts. Another key is to embrace positive thoughts while disengaged. That reverses the negative effects of work tasks. It also increases blood flow to the areas of the brain that we use for focus.By playing around with these concepts, you can develop a custom routine tailored to your needs. These days, my method of break-taking is flexible. Whenever I feel the need, I get out of my chair and move my body. Here is a summary of my approach:

  1. Break complex work down into chunks. Work through each piece from the most difficult to the easiest. An average chunk should take between 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Take a break after completing each chunk of work. Alternatively, take a break whenever you start to lose focus.
  3. Disengage from the internet. Leave your phone at your desk. Walk with a purpose towards a drink, fresh air, yoga mat, etc.
  4. Forget about work and focus on positive, healthy sensations. For example, listen to birds chirping, or walk barefoot on grass.
  5. Return to your desk and settle in. Then, use your clear mind and excess energy to power through another chunk of work.

Conclusion

In the work-from-home era, the concept of taking many breaks through a workday makes sense. With discipline, arranging your work into chunks can yield incredible results. For one thing, working in short bursts with a primed brain will deliver more efficient production.For another, regular disengagement from the details helps you to see a project from micro and macro perspectives.

As well, regular movement will keep your body and mind feeling vibrant, focused, and alert. Start your own healthy home office routine with good feng shui, healthy sitting habits, and a good ergonomic chair. Then, make the most of your setup by mixing frequent short breaks into your routine.Doing so will help you get more work done with less sitting time. On top of that, it will help you to maintain a lithe, lean physique that takes your well-being to a higher level of bliss.

By: Source: Benefits of Micro-Breaks For Desk Workers | ChairsFX.Related ArticlesPeer-Reviewed Guidelines For Healthy SittingLumbar Support Biomechanics: The Key To Sitting StraightWhy Gaming Chairs Are Good For Your Back

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If You Want to Grow Like Google, Make These Important Culture Moves at Your Office

Google might be a successful behemoth now, but at one time, it was a startup going through some serious growing pains. At one point in its aggressive development, co-founder Larry Page reportedly scrapped the company’s burgeoning middle management level. He quickly discovered that, despite his preferences, an additional supervisory layer was necessary to successfully scale operations without major hiccups.

Therein lies a major problem with scaling: It doesn’t just involve getting progressively bigger, like a blown-up balloon. Instead, its shape morphs as new needs arise, such as heightened employee responsibilities and changing customer expectations. And plenty of smart leaders ignore these red flags when they’re growing at breakneck speed.

What are some of those indicators of runaway growth? Team burnout might as well be a neon sign. Another problem is dwindling capital with no real profit sources in sight. Of course, unhappy customers are a sure side effect of unhinged expansion.

If you’re increasing revenue, you may be tempted to keep your foot on the pedal instead of tapping the brakes. Don’t halt your forward momentum, but remain open to addressing a few issues that will make scaling less challenging — and more rewarding — for all stakeholders.

Here are three ways you can help your office’s culture grow with the pace of your fast growing company:

1. Define and direct your team’s new cultural journey.

When you’re a 10-person shop, your culture may look and function like a big family. When you hit the 50- or 100-employee mark, complete with remote workers, you can’t sustain the same kind of atmosphere. That’s OK, but it means you need to rethink your team’s collective identity.

If you haven’t established your corporate purpose or vision, now’s the time. Choose a few main value points, and create robust statements around them. After you’ve run your ideas by trusted colleagues and tweaked them as necessary, release your vision so everyone’s on the same page.

Certainly, your culture will evolve as you get bigger. Google didn’t stay static; neither should your company. Nevertheless, establishing your corporate DNA before you get exceptionally large will help everyone remain true to your vision, even as changes naturally occur.

One of the biggest impacts I’ve seen on culture is to align everyone around shared values. The process of discussing the behaviors exhibiting each value has helped many of my clients create teams that work together toward a common goal.

2. Keep your head in the present moment.

Although you’ll need to project into the future, you can’t lose sight of your current growth stage. As a leader, your job is to be both a pragmatist and a visionary. Even as your world swirls with opportunities, you owe it to your workers to take the team’s capacity into account and establish a healthy baseline.

Are your people up to the challenges you’re about to face? Do they have the training and capabilities to handle emerging roles? Never make assumptions — they’ll always backfire. As you prepare for the next adventure, be open to upskilling staff and perhaps even shifting employees into different roles.

Experiment with new org charts, seeing which ones fit current and anticipated needs. Google’s Page quickly walked back his experiment in eliminating middle management, yet focusing on getting the right people in the right roles was crucial to Google’s success at that stage. Through trial and error, you can determine which employee, organization, revenue and profit restructures make the most sense to propel your business forward.

3. Discover and address operational bottlenecks.

When Page eliminated mid-level managers, he quickly realized that having one executive with 100 engineers reporting to him wouldn’t turn out well. Situations like that are bound to result in bottlenecks. Every fast-growing business experiences bottlenecks in areas like hiring, customer service and operations.

Some bottlenecks are relatively obvious, making them easier to fix. If an employee has so much paperwork to deal with that he’s become a living traffic jam, you need to streamline your processes — the problem is apparent, and you can intervene immediately.

Other issues may be buried deep within systems and supply chains, making them tough to pinpoint. For those situations, AI can provide critical insights. AI platforms can analyze thousands of data points at once, spotting problems that might take years to bubble to the surface.

You may or may not one day compete with the likes of Google. If you stick around, though, your organization will inevitably need to scale. The more you focus on thoughtfully navigating the experience, the better your outcome will be.

By: Gene Hammett

 

Source: If You Want to Grow Like Google, Make These Important Culture Moves at Your Office | Inc.com

@Ade Oshineye presents from the Google Developers Summit on how you as a developer can grow with Google+, namely highlighting: Reach, user acquisiton and conversion, user engagement and retention, and finally, when needed, re-engagement. #developer   #developers

Simple Desk Improvements That Make an Open Office Easier to Bear – Alan Henry

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Open floor plans and “flexible” office seating are common in today’s modern, meticulously designed workplaces. While designers and managers hope that they’ll improve communication by encouraging people to talk to one another, more than a few studies have pointed out that they may actually do the opposite, and instead are simply designed to be cost-effective. And there is widespread agreement that they make workers miserable.

If you’re stuck with an open floor plan, there are a few things you can do to block out the noise, focus and make your work space a bit more inviting every day.

Make Yourself at Home

A few personal effects, like a photo, a desk toy that expresses your personality or a sweater you can wear if it gets too cold (and we all know how chilly it gets in open offices) will make your desk — flexible seating or not — feel like a place you can settle in and get work done. Add a water bottle, hand sanitizer and lotion, and it’ll really feel like home. I like to keep an umbrella and a blazer in my desk storage, depending on the season.

Roy Mann, chief executive and co-founder of monday.com, a company that helps teams collaborate better, said he likes to keep a few clocks visible — not just the ones on your laptop or phone.

“We do this so that people can measure their time,” Mr. Mann said, “understand how long meetings take, and assess how much time they’re spending on projects.”

Similarly, consider a few quality-of-life upgrades for your desk, like a wireless charging pad to keep your phone’s battery topped off during the day. If your phone doesn’t support wireless charging, or even if it does, a powered USB hub keeps everything charged and also gives you a way to plug in additional gadgets.

Wirecutter, the New York Times company that reviews products, has suggestions for both USB 3.0 hubs and hubs for newer computers that use USB-C. They also have a great pick for a multi-port USB charging hub that’s small enough to stash on any desk, even a shared one. Just remember to bring a good charging cable.

If you don’t have an assigned desk but do have storage like a closet, locker or cabinet, make sure your effects are also portable enough to store. You may even consider bringing a small tote bag, so you can pack up your stuff at the end of the day and grab it when you arrive in the morning.

Add Some Green

A little greenery can create a more relaxing space, and office friendly plants like succulents and air plants are easy to care for. They’ll survive if you have to switch seats, stay home sick for a few days or go on vacation. We have suggestions for plants that are hard to kill and tips to care for indoor plants.

Whatever you do, make sure the plants will thrive in your specific desk environment. Even if the plant you buy doesn’t need a lot of water, it may not do well in fluorescent lighting, far from the windows. Others might be fine without direct light, but a chilly office will stunt their growth. At my last job, I had a set of succulents that were too close to a cold, uninsulated window, so they didn’t grow until I moved them away from it.

Use Headphones to Cancel the Noise

Office designers hoped that open floor plans would encourage workers to collaborate by physically removing the barriers to communication. Instead, headphones became the new walls, because those open plans can get loud, and privacy is at a premium. I’m a headphones-in-the-office enthusiast, and while they can certainly make some office interactions a little awkward, it’s not difficult to overcome, and the trade-off in privacy is more than worth it.

Not all headphones are equal, and not all headphones are great for the office. So-called open-back headphones offer more expansive, rich sound, but the open back means everyone around you can hear a little of what you’re listening to. Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, offer a little more isolation, which means sound quality can feel more closed in and tight, but you won’t treat the person next to you to an impromptu concert.

You could use the same earbuds you use with your phone; if you need help finding good wireless earbuds, check out Wirecutter’s guide. However, if you want good audio and a clearer way to signal “I’m working,” you need a pair of over-ear, noise canceling headphones.

Both Wirecutter and I agree you can’t beat the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods, offer great audio quality and feature noise cancellation that will block out background noise like chatty co-workers (as long as they’re not the really chatty ones.) They are pricey, so Wirecutter has plenty of other, budget-friendly options as well.

Use Music to Help You Focus

Not everyone likes music while they work, but I find an upbeat, instrumental playlist helps me tune out the rest of the world and focus. You probably have a favorite streaming music service already, or even a killer playlist you listen to when you’re in the zone, but consider trying one of those services’ mood-based stations as well.

Spotify and Google Play Music, for example, let you type in a word like “focus” or “work,” and will automatically play songs to encourage you to get things done. If you don’t care for what Spotify or Google serves up, YouTube has user-driven, live-streaming music channels that play specifically “music to work or study to,” like lo-fi, instrumental hip-hop stations and other 24/7 streaming stations playing subdued, instrumental, electronica intended to help you focus. If you’d prefer more control, Pandora is always a good bet because you can prompt the service with an artist or song and let it handle the rest.

Get Away Sometimes

Regardless of your work space, try to get away from it sometimes. Working from home is a great option if it’s available to you. If it’s not, try to find a quiet corner in your office to escape the noise. You might even try camping out in an empty conference room for a few hours, or book it for most of the day to give yourself — and maybe a few of your colleagues — a quiet place to be productive.

Mr. Mann endorsed this idea. “Sometimes, you just need a few minutes of privacy or a room to to focus and not be disturbed,” he said. “The smaller rooms are essential to success in an open work space as it gives people an opportunity to work privately or quietly together. An open space also allows for large public areas to be built for gathering and socializing. For an open space to be effective, people also need to have the ability to sit alone or with someone else in private.”

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