The New Meaning Of Taking A Break

With the surge of the millennials and Gen-Z’s came a transformation in the concept of ‘taking a break’


“There is a virtue in work and there is a virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither” – Alan Cohen

The Foundation

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a break as ‘a respite from work, school, or duty’. A break is intended to provide relief and give some rest to our body and mind.

In the mid-1900s, when a typical workday would be of 8-9 hours, Labour Guidelines mandated a rest interval of at least half an hour so that no continuous period of work exceeds 5½ hours. Back then, taking a break was going to the vending machine for tea/coffee and having a chat with colleagues or taking a walk around the office after lunch. In fact, casual dressing on Fridays was also viewed as a kind of ‘break’, because it allowed the body to relax and the brain to feel at ease.

Times changed and so did our work hours. With the surge of the millennials and Gen-Z’s came a transformation in the concept of ‘taking a break’. Brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and innovative ideas, these digital citizens are always connected 24x7 to technology and don’t shy away from working long hours. An average employee in Mumbai works 3,315 hours a year — the highest in the world, according to a study by Swiss Investment Bank UBS. 

Working on -the- go, emails on phone, virtual meetings are a common everyday phenomenon these days. No longer is a break of half an hour every 5½ hours is relevant. People now want the freedom to take a break when they want, where they want and how long they want. 

Getting away from your computer, your phone, and your to-do list is essential to boosting your productivity. Breaks such as walking, reading, listening to music, taking a power nap, are the most effective forms of recharging because they take you away from your work.

The Transformation

With the advent of the new-age workforce came newer definitions though. Bean bags in offices where one could lounge with a magazine or a book, massage chairs, parlour at work, meditation rooms, gymnasium, library’s, indoor sports like chess, darts or carrom – most organisations now offer innovative ways to rest the mind and reenergise the body. Google, one of the most popular employers worldwide, is famous for offering on-site massages, bowling alleys and gaming rooms – open throughout the day – so that employees can take a break any time they want to.

Taking a break, however short or long, helps one relax, recharge and refocus. From moving to just breaks at work, we are now speedily moving towards taking breaks from work. One such emerging trend of breaks are ‘sabbaticals.’ As a concept, they have existed since over a century, and top firms in the USA and Europe started offering them as early as the ‘50s, but the concept reached Indian shores only late last century. 

Sabbaticals or longer breaks have become an essential part of the employees’ lifecycle at work. Disconnecting from work for a prolonged duration can be the key to better productivity and longer work-life. Hence, most organisations today have not just made it compulsory for employees to take a minimum number of block leaves every year but also offer sabbaticals as a policy, generally ranging from 3 months to 1 year. 

In a developing country like India, sabbaticals were earlier essentially taken to take care of children, ailing parents or for managing family responsibilities. However, taking a sabbatical now is not just confined to that. While some people may still struggle with the idea of how do they utilize their sabbatical, the go-getter millennials prefer to use this time to analyse their lives, find the gaps, take a road trip, volunteer for a cause, try their hand at a new venture, travel the globe, pursue new hobbies or revive old ones. They might go backpacking across South Africa, write the novel they have been postponing, or learn something new - a new language, a new musical instrument, a new hobby. The focus has now shifted from care and responsibilities to rejuvenation and reinvention. 

Weaving it together- The Blend

While the nature, frequency, and duration of the break largely depends on the individual and the context, organisations have evolved and opened gates to encourage and support the variety of breaks as a part of their larger commitment to employee wellness. What cannot be denied is that disengaging from work, ensures renewed focus and better productivity. So, go ahead - take a break!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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