Freelancers who make the move from office to home often suffer from the lack of work socialization and structure, even if they don’t realize it.
A writer for hire spends hours alone at the computer, which can breed negative habits that eventually impact both mental and physical well-being. One thing most professional environments provide to combat those negatives is a structured break schedule and break room.
Benefits of a Break Room
According to Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, a brief diversion from work can improve focus and productivity over the long-term. Lleras says traditional wisdom on the topic said attention was a limited resource, but his research shows that individuals are always paying attention to something. The problem is that your brain builds up an immunity of sorts to things over time, which is why breaking away from a task lets you come back to it with fresh eyes.
A break room and scheduled break time ensures the mind gets that needed diversion. Other beneficial things that can be done in a break room include:
- Reducing stress through social situations such as laughter or commissary
- Relaxing in a way that’s usually not possible when work is right in front of you
- Engaging with a different environment as a way to drive creativity
- Speaking with others about ideas or seeking feedback
Creating Break Rooms in a Freelance World
You can get almost all the benefits of a break room in their own home, even if you’re alone most of the day. First, commit to a structured break schedule. One reason many people get into freelancing is to avoid schedules, so you don’t have to stick to something like “break from 10:00 to 10:15 a.m.” Instead, for every 1.5 hours you work, take a ten minute break.
Identify locations in or around your home that let you get away from work quickly for a few minutes. If you work in a home office, the break area could be your kitchen table, a patio, or the sidewalk out front. Imbue your break time and space with reward, such as your favorite beverages or a fancy home coffee machine. Use the time as a reward for working hard for over an hour.
When working in a public area, such as a coffee shop, create a “break space” by shutting your laptop or stepping away from the table for a refill. The goal is to create a short distraction of any kind so your brain has permission to stop paying attention to the work for a few minutes.
Emulating the Social Aspects of a Break Room
The social aspects of a professional break room are more difficult to emulate in a freelance world, but the Internet provides some options. Join a few freelance groups or forums to communicate with like-minded people. Build some strong and lasting online relationships and you can have water cooler talk online or bounce ideas off a colleague through Facebook messenger or Skype. By thinking outside the box, freelancers can enjoy the benefits of office breaks and socialization without sacrificing the work-for-yourself freedom.
Sarah S creates content in a variety of niches, including healthcare, accounting, technology, and marketing. Sometimes, she gets so caught up in her work, she forgets to take a break for lunch. When Sarah does remember her 10 minute break, she tries not to spend it all playing Candy Crush.