Breaks at Work: Creating a Pro-Break Culture in Your Workplace
- Kati Ryan
- 4 Min Read
Anne Lamott said it best: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Taking a break, unplugging, and taking calculated time to refresh will always have you coming back feeling better and recharged. In an organization, it’s important to create a culture where your team feels like breaks are encouraged and accepted. Below are reasons why breaks at work are important, a couple easy ways to foster that culture, and 18 simple break ideas to share with your team to spark that “pro-break culture.”
3 Big Reasons Breaks at Work Are Important
You know that taking breaks at work is important. But do you know why? Here are three important reasons why you need to shut down once in a while to keep going.
1. Preventing Burnout and Improving Work-life Balance
Burnout is a real thing and will abruptly turnover your employees. “Burnout, the chronic depletion of physical, mental, and emotional reserves, affects 96% of leaders and costs American companies $190 billion each year,” according to Daniel Turissini, founder of Recharj, a Shark Tank-featured nap and meditation studio. “The latest neuroscience research confirms that working in short, focused bursts with time built in for restorative and contemplative activities, such as a power nap or meditation, dramatically improves performance and helps avoid burnout.” In short, when your team can take breaks at work, it helps them stay sane.
2. Increased Productivity
This may seem counterintuitive. More work time means work output, right? But that’s not the case. Taking breaks will increase overall productivity in your team, and in turn within the business. In some organizations, this is easier than others. Frank Frisbie, Head of Sales at Blisplay says, “I know of some companies that try to squeeze sales activities into every minute of the workday. They have high turnover, friction between employees, and are less productive over time. I’ve found that taking regular breaks during the workday is an essential part of ensuring success, as they ensure work/life balance and happy employees. Happy employees are productive employees.”
3. Brain Breaks = Better Ideas
Creating “space” for reflection and processing is key to generating those big ideas. “I am halfway through a 10-week User Experience Design Course,” reflects Graham Fleming, a UX Design Fellow at General Assembly. “Breaks are so very vital, as we are in the classroom nine to five, Monday through Friday and putting in extra time in the evenings, over the weekend and early in the morning. I’ve noticed I have ‘Aha moments’ or breakthroughs following a break. They typically happen when I return to a problem or design challenge.”
4 Easy Ways to Encourage Breaks at Work
So what can you do to foster a healthy culture of taking breaks at your workplace? Here are four ways to encourage breaks within your organization.
1. Weave Them Into the Day
During conferences, trainings, workshops, or other projects, make sure you give nice, long breaks to employees where they can check their technology, respond to emails, relax their mind, caffeinate, or do whatever they need. A good rule of thumb here is to plan breaks at least every 2 hours for 15 to 30 minutes in length.
2. Designate a Quiet Room
Work breaks can tend to skew to social time. And that can be hard on introverts in your office. Introverts often need time to themselves during breaks. A Quiet Room in the office can help. Creating a safe space where they can go and know they are safe to remain quiet will help them recharge and come back fresh.
3. Block Time on Calendars
They say failing to plan is planning to fail. Get in front of this and lead by example with your organization. Block lunches and formalized breaks on your calendar once every 90 to 120 minutes. Stand up and walk around for a few minutes. Encourage your team to do the same.
4. Share Additional Tips
Everyone takes breaks in different ways. But some people may need some prompting on where to start. See below for some great ideas to share with your team.
18 Effective Ways to Leverage Breaks at Work:
Sharing this list with your team will tangibly illustrate that your organization values breaks at work. Have your trainers share this for employees to leverage during multi-day workshops. Display it in the break room. Share it on your messaging systems. And send via a company-wide email. Seriously, do it in whatever way will get the word out. Feel free to copy, paste, and edit this list, and put it on your company letterhead. Your employees will thank you.
- Caffeinate: Whether grabbing a coffee or tea in the office, or walking to a local spot, stretch your legs and awaken your mind.
- Hydrate: Fill up your water bottle in the kitchen and stay standing while you drink it. Get that oxygen flowing and replenish with some good old H2O
- Go for a Walk: Even if it’s just a five or 10-minute walk, getting some fresh air and moving your body will wake you up and give you an energy boost.
- Listen to a Podcast: Podcasts are easy to download and listen to, and you have tons to choose from. Search for podcasts that fit your interests, or feature things you may want to know. There’s really something out there for everyone.
- Meditate: Quiet the noise and recenter yourself. If you’re new to meditation, check out a few apps to get you started like Head Space, Calm, Buddhify, or Stop, Breathe & Think.
- Stand Up and Stretch: It sounds simple. But stand up and get that blood flowing. Lean to the left, to the right, lean back, lean forward. Give your body a much-needed break from sitting.
- Grab a Snack: Get your grub on. Consider a healthy snack like unsalted nuts, a piece of fruit or an energy bar, for some healthy “brain food.” Or if it’s one of those days, it’s okay to indulge in a cookie once in a while.
- Go to Lunch: Yes, this is serious. Close your computer, stand up, walk to the door, walk out the door, sit down, and eat lunch somewhere. You shouldn’t always eat at your desk. Heck, invite a coworker or two to join you. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for the afternoon.
- Write in a Journal: If you’re not a big journaler, that’s no problem. Dedicate to simply dating and writing one sentence per day for the next 30 days. You’ll be surprised what you come up with. And who knows? You might start a new trend.
- Read a Book: Ask your team if they’ve read any good books lately. Start a book club in the office or just read something you enjoy. Another option is to listen to the many great audiobooks out there.
- Do Something “Life” Productive: Remove distractions that are weighing on you. Pay that bill. Call your relative. Check your personal email. Run that errand. Get your haircut. If it’s something you need to get done, use a break to do it.
- Draw or Doodle: Release those creative juices. Draw or doodle something funky in a notebook. Keep a special notebook and review your old doodles every once in a while.
- Go for a Ride or Drive: Rent a bike, ride your own, or go for a drive with the windows down. Listen to your favorite radio station or ride in silence. Just get away for a few minutes and come back fresh.
- Learn Something New: There are plenty of interesting things out there. Watch a talk. Or find a free course online. Attend a webinar on something you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be work-related. In fact, it’s often better if it’s not. You never know where inspiration might hit you.
- Talk to Someone New: Branch out and introduce yourself to someone you’ve not spoken to yet. Try asking them more questions than speaking. See what you learn and how to conversation flows.
- Play a Game: Whether starting up a ping pong match, playing an online game, or doing a puzzle, take a few minutes to relax and have some fun.
- Listen to Music: Put in some headphones and leverage your favorite streaming services. Try a new playlist or an “old faithful” that relaxes you or pumps you up. Match the music to your aspired mood. Dance if you want to. It’s your break, after all.
- Embrace the Quiet: Sometimes it’s time to recharge. So do just that. Embrace that quiet time and leverage the Quiet Room or do whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries and come back feeling better.
L&D or HR Professionals, if you’re structuring a multi-day workshop and want an agenda template with work breaks woven in?