How to Take High Quality Workday Breaks Using the 7 Types of Rest Framework

better breaks at remote work

Taking meaningful breaks at work has become more important than ever as our daily lives get faster and busier. For employees in remote settings, it can be surprisingly tough to remember to take enough breaks during the day, or take quality breaks that genuinely help to refresh and refocus.

In remote environments, the challenge isn’t just to pause work, but to engage in restorative rest breaks that cater to the full spectrum of human needs — physical, mental, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and spiritual.

In this blog, we’ll look at how you can integrate these seven types of rest, as identified by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, into your remote wellness programs. The seven rest types give you a structured approach to make sure that every break taken is rejuvenating and meaningful, and contributes to overall employee satisfaction.

The importance of taking breaks as a remote worker

Taking small breaks during a busy work day is scientifically proven to improve productivity and focus, and reduce stress. 

For remote employees who don’t have the natural interruptions of being in-office, or a lunchroom to have a cup of tea and catch up on office gossip, taking regular short breaks during the day is essential to maintain overall well-being. 

Prevents burnout

Paid time off alone isn’t enough to avoid employee burnout. Without a regular break policy in place, employees can head straight back into burnout territory when they return to work.

Even though we all know how good it feels to kick back and take a break, only 1 in 3 employees say they “often or always” remember to stop for a break during work time. 56% of employees say they’re simply too busy to take any breaks, and 60% say they feel guilty for taking breaks during work hours. These are all signs of an unhealthy workplace culture. 

In contrast, a healthy workplace environment promotes the importance of breaks. Workers feel supported and encouraged to take breaks, which also makes them feel valued and appreciated by their employer.

Improves mental wellness

Breaks help to reset the brain, reducing mental stress and fatigue and helping employees maintain focus.

Studies have shown that employees with better work-to-rest ratios also report higher engagement levels and job satisfaction, which means increased retention for your organization.

Supports physical well-being

Long periods of uninterrupted sitting can wreak havoc on the human body. It can result in us looking suspiciously croissant-shaped by the end of the day, as well as increasing the risk for heart disease and decreasing our metabolic health.

Even short breaks that involve physical activity, such as chair stretches, yoga, or going for a quick walk can help reset our posture and get our metabolism fired up again.

The power of microbreaks

On days that are packed with meetings and deadlines, breaks are even more important for your remote employees.

This is your chance to promote the power of microbreaks. Brief pauses to stretch, breathe, or take time away from the computer screen can make a world of difference, and even 7-minute breaks have been shown to have a big impact on employee well-being.

Microbreaks like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga poses can be easily integrated between tasks and meetings, and can significantly reduce mental and physical fatigue, without disrupting overall workflow.

Empower your leaders and managers to promote regular breaks that cater to physical, mental, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and spiritual needs, while also taking wider organizational goals into account. 

What makes a quality break?

Not all breaks are created equal! A high-quality break away from your screen should energize and refresh you, helping you feel more focused when you switch back into work mode — whereas a low-quality break might leave you feeling distracted or more stressed out.

Low quality breaks

  • Social media scrolling and constantly checking news feeds can lead to feelings of stress and inadequacy. Although we all secretly enjoy watching funny animal videos, doomscrolling doesn’t give us the mental or sensory break we need.
  • Binge-watching Netflix and online shopping can help us briefly forget about our troubles, but this prolonged screen time can also lead to us feeling more lethargic and less connected to the people around us.
  • Reaching for yummy but unhealthy processed snacks during a break can cause a spike and crash in energy levels, which can have a flow-on effect on work productivity.

High quality breaks

  • Physical activity 
  • Meditation and stretching
  • Reconnecting with nature
  • Having a power nap
  • Catch up with friends or family to chat about anything but work!

Let’s take a look at how you can align the seven types of rest with high quality breaks in your remote organization.

The 7 types of rest and how they can be integrated into taking better breaks

The “7 Types of Rest” framework addresses the comprehensive needs of remote employees who face unique challenges such as physical inactivity, mental and sensory overload, social isolation, emotional exhaustion, and creative blocks. 

Each type of rest (physical, mental, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and spiritual) targets the varied challenges of remote work, ensuring that employees can maintain high levels of productivity, engagement, and well-being.

Now we’ve discussed the benefits of taking breaks in general, let’s look at the different types of rest and how you can address them in your wellness initiatives. If you’re using Bright Breaks, you’ll notice our breaks were designed with all seven types of rest in mind!

The “7 Types of Rest Framework™” was developed by author and physician, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith who wanted to take a more granular, analytical approach to managing fatigue.

Physical rest 

Your remote employees need to take breaks to ensure their bodies are exercised and relaxed properly. This will help them avoid common challenges of desk work like RSI, back and shoulder pain, and eye strain.

Physical rest doesn’t just mean taking a nap or chilling out with Netflix — it can also include restful, restorative physical activities that help stretch out your muscles and relax your body.

Taking Bright Breaks 7-minute breaks for stretching, yoga, desk-friendly exercises, neck and shoulder resets all tick the box for physical rest.

Mental rest

If you’ve experienced that foggy, slow, confused brain feeling on a busy day (and who hasn’t?), it’s a good sign that a mental break is needed.

Mental rest means you need to switch off from the constant stimulation of electronics and phones to give your brain a rest. This helps improve mental alertness and productivity during the work day.

Encourage employees to close their laptop for a while, meditate, take a walk, or block notifications and “problem” apps like email and social media during work time to reduce some of the cognitive load.

Ways to include Bright Breaks for mental rest might include scheduling breath-work for stress relief and guided meditations to unwind and calm the chatter in your head.

Emotional rest

This type of rest is defined by Dr. Dalton-Smith as “the rest we experience when we don’t feel like we’re hiding part of ourselves from other people”. 

Emotional rest gives us time to process our feelings and work through setbacks, which helps us stay emotionally balanced and reduces burnout. Even though many remote employees might feel guilty taking emotional rest breaks, it’s an essential part of their self-care. 

If employees feel drained by colleagues, swamped by pressing deadlines, or juggling work-life balance, they mind find real benefits in journalling, talking with close friends or family, or getting support through the workplace or a trusted online therapy provider such as TalkSpace.

With Bright Breaks, employees can tap into emotional rest by journaling for emotional release, and taking gratitude and self-compassion breaks.

Social rest

Spending more time with people you can completely relax around and have fun with is one of the essential aspects of the rest framework. Solo breaks are great, but social breaks are crucial for social and emotional rest. This is why it’s important to create a remote workplace that has a supportive, community feel. 

Running group social events, virtual holiday parties, and creating a dedicated chat channel for employees to share gifs, memes, and general non-work banter can all help people to feel more socially rested.

The impact of social connections on wellness and mood are well-known, and nurturing meaningful personal and working relationships is one of the keys to tapping into social rest.

Middle managers are in a perfect position to promote social rest and increase education around the importance of social connection. Integrating social rest into a wellness program can look like planning regular social happy hours, short group exercises, employee recognition celebrations, and casual coffee chats for any employees who want to join in.

Group well-being breaks on Bright Breaks can help reduce the feelings of isolation experienced by many remote employees, and can be incredibly helpful to your organization on many levels.

Sensory rest

Whether your employees work at home with kids or partners, at a coworking space, or at a coffee shop, it can be a noisy, bright, distracting environment. 

Too much sensory overload can completely obliterate our focus, and lead to increased stress, anxiety, and annoyance at even the smallest things. But if we take the opportunity to rest our senses, even for a few minutes, our mind and body has time to recover from sensory overstimulation, and reduce stress.

Sensory rest involves the management of factors like light and sound so employees can concentrate and work comfortably. Investing in apps like BrainFM, hardware such as Loop earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, or simply taking a quiet walk can all help reduce some of the sensory overload.

Bright Breaks can help your employees get more sensory rest. Quick breaks such as eye rest, sensory awareness exercises, and visualization audio sessions can all help to reduce sensory overload.

Creative rest

Taking a break for creative things can do your employees a world of good, and it’s one of our favorite rest types!

Schedule some team creativity time with a company like Doodle Breaks, or encourage your employees to pursue interesting hobbies such as art, music, cooking, or woodwork. This can help your remote teams to rejuvenate their creative spirits, explore new ideas, and stay inspired and motivated at home and work.

With Bright Breaks, employees can access on-demand tutorials for activities like cooking and dance, which all contribute to creative rest.

Spiritual Rest

This type of rest doesn’t need to involve religion of any sort, it’s more focused on a sense of individual belonging and purpose.

Dr Dalton-Smith states that the “core of spiritual rest is that feeling that we all have of needing to be really seen, of feeling that we belong, that we’re accepted, that our life has meaning.”

You can integrate spiritual rest into your wellness program through local volunteer initiatives, charity fundraising, or simply encouraging employees to take time out to practice meditation, mindfulness, or gratitude activities.

Employees can factor in spiritual rest with 7-minute Bright Breaks including yin-yang stretches, or learning about the art of manifestation. There are also plenty of mindfulness breaks including mindful self-massage, mindful movement, and gratitude practice.

Create and promote a break best practice

Developing an organization-wide break best practice that sets out a recommended frequency and duration for breaks can help employees manage their time more effectively, and remind them to take some time out during the day.

This doesn’t need to be complicated. For example, you could suggest a version of the well-known “Pomodoro Technique” adapted it to your teams’ needs.

It’s also important to realize that all of your employees have different work rhythms and levels of mental and physical fitness. Your best practice should take into account flexible breaks that suit workers with different time zones and productivity peaks. Some people might need more breaks in the morning, while others prefer downtime later in the day.

Lead by example 

The importance of taking breaks should be a core part of your wellness program. Leaders should regularly communicate the importance of break time, not just through a company policy, but also through their own actions. 

If managers and HR openly talk about their personal routines, it can eliminate the guilt that many remote employees feel about stepping away from their desks during work time.

Use tools and apps

The growth of remote work has also seen a growth in apps designed to support employee well-being. Tools like Bright BreaksTime OutEyeCare, and Workrave can all help remind employees to take regular screen breaks, without them needing to manually keep track of the time.

Even everyday tools like Microsoft Outlook now have the ability to set organization-wide scheduling defaults that shorten meetings and create space for breaks for everyone at the company.

Incentivize your breaks

Offering rewards and prizes for regular breaks is a sure-fire way to get employees to remember to take them!

If you’re using Bright Breaks, a reward system is built right into the platform. Otherwise, you could simply shout out employees who demonstrate a good balance of productivity and well-being, or give small rewards for individuals or teams that engage in regular break-taking activities.

Track and optimize your breaks policy

Regular check-ins with employees help you to make sure people are taking their breaks, and whether these breaks can be improved in any way.

You could also offer workshops to educate employees, or share weekly well-being resources with tips on how to maximize the benefits of their breaks. 

In summary

To ensure your remote workforce brings their absolute best to your organization, it’s essential that they feel rested, motivated, and balanced in their professional and personal lives. Encouraging regular breaks is a huge factor in this, which is why it should be a core element of reducing employee stress in your organization.

Creating a work culture that actively supports breaks, with a defined break policy, proactive leaders, and engaging apps and activities to keep employees feeling mentally and physically fresh, can help you build a more resilient, motivated workplace that people enjoy being a part of.

Bright Breaks was designed to help leaders and managers easily implement fun, effective 7-minute breaks for remote-first teams. With individual and group breaks, weekly challenges, live expert-led breaks, and 500+ on-demand videos, we help you improve workplace wellness — without the work!

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What you should do now

  1. Promote best practices for remote worker health with free copy/paste, pre-written scripts you can post every week in your internal communications channels.

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