Home office and almost empty offices: What helps some to finally concentrate properly, ensures that others don’t take enough breaks. Animals can help with this – and they don’t even have to be your own pets.
It all started with Fienchen. Fienchen is a squirrel child who fell out of the Kobel at the age of about six weeks and was not brought back by the mother. Fienchen had diarrhea, was much too small and light for her age and a few fleas had already made themselves comfortable in her fur. But Fienchen was lucky – she found empathetic people and entrusted her to my best friend Dennis. The has been nursing squirrel orphans on a voluntary basis for a few years like Fienchen and then release them back into the wild when they are big and strong. And because Fienchen is damn cute and Dennis understandably didn’t feel like answering my “What is Fienchen doing now?” Messages every ten minutes, he set up a video live stream. So I can look into Fienchen’s box at any time and see what she’s doing – Spoiler: She sleeps a lot. But I would never have thought that Fienchen would also help me to work more productively.
Regular breaks are important
Breaks are important at work – and that doesn’t just mean the lunch break by far. Ergonomics advise you to take a break before your concentration wanes. Anyone who “works” against difficulty concentrating and tiredness or combats them with the help of coffee only worsens the condition – and it also takes longer to recover.
In the office, I almost automatically took short breaks on a regular basis. The quick chat with the colleague at the desk next door, just getting up to explain something to the trainee or to go to the toilet – I didn’t have to encourage myself to take breaks, they just happened. In the home office, however, most of it falls away and so I just worked through until the lunch break, which was then often rather short or consisted of a yoghurt in front of the computer. And by 3 p.m. at the latest, I regularly felt bruised, exhausted and had the feeling that I could hardly think straight ahead. The time until the end of the day was mainly torture, I could hardly be really productive anymore.
Our ability to concentrate runs in waves
In fact, depending on the time of day, our ability to concentrate is not always the same, it rather runs in Wave movements. A cycle lasts about 90 minutes, 70 minutes of which we can work on one thing in a focused and concentrated manner. For the remaining 20 minutes, our brain falls into a passive, receptive state. This in no way means that we are incapable of anything during this time. Rather, creative and intuitive brain functions dominate here, tension is relieved and resources are re-bundled.
So it makes sense to treat yourself to small breaks on a regular basis and also to allow short phases of fatigue to relax. As a rule of thumb, around five minutes per hour apply here – but shorter breaks can also ensure that we generally feel calmer, more relaxed and a little fitter.
This is where Fienchen comes in again – I pushed a browser window with her live stream onto my second monitor. As soon as I see movement out of the corner of my eye, my curiosity is aroused and I can see for a brief moment what she’s doing – and take a short break, automatically.
Another positive side effect is that my mood improves too. When going to the water dispenser or the toilet, work often stays in your head, you formulate the next email or ponder a problem – a relaxing break looks different. On the other hand, when cute animals are jumping around, interacting with each other or simply eating something, it is difficult to think about a meeting or to be annoyed with colleagues. The break therefore not only means not concentrating for a moment and making sure that you work precisely, it is also fun. And last but not least, I get through the day with more energy – I haven’t fallen into the 3pm hole for a long time.
Live streams for relaxation
And Fienchen? Dennis helped her get well. She’s still rather petite for a squirrel, but she has already moved out of her little box into an aviary, where she and her squirrel buddies Hein and Emma learn to climb, balance and crack nuts. Unfortunately, I can no longer watch her – but luckily there are enough alternative sources for animal content on the Internet for productive breaks.
We have put together a few suggestions in our picture gallery.