- Taking regular breaks throughout the workday can prevent stress and burnout, improve productivity, and foster a sense of community.
- Better breaks are a key element to working smarter, and there are some things organizations can do to encourage workers to take regular, better breaks.
- Some ways to encourage people to take breaks include stocking the kitchen with healthy snacks, providing tech-free zones, and creating an outdoor area where workers can relax.
Research has shown that taking regular breaks during the workday can improve productivity, prevent stress and burnout, and encourage chance encounters that can help people bond and create a sense of community and belonging.
However, even though breaks are a key element to working smarter, not many organizations encourage workers to take regular breaks throughout their workday.
And no, we don’t just mean people taking a lunch break.
A little goes a long way
Break taking is a lost art form.
This is unfortunate as taking better breaks can lead to improved physical and mental wellbeing. Taking breaks allows people to stay energized and engaged, it can boost creative thinking, and improve our memory.
The fact is that the human brain’s focus drops after a long period of focusing on a single task, which hinders our performance and reduced productivity and efficiency levels.
Breaks during the workday don’t have to be long. In fact, they can be as short as 30 second to 5 minute breaks.
Even this short amount of time can go a long way in helping individuals not only perform better at work, but also feel better throughout the day.
For example, taking a break can help people put things in perspective and solve problems. More often than not, many people struggle with finding a solution to a simple problem because they’ve been so immersed in it they are no longer able to see things objectively and strategically.
Moreover, taking regular breaks encourages people to move and walk around, therefore improving their physical health as breaks prevent people from spending long periods of time sitting down.
So how can organizations help workers take better breaks?
Here are three strategies that organizations can implement to help workers take better breaks at work.
1. Stock the kitchen with healthy food
The food we eat greatly influences the way we feel throughout the day. Organizations should stock their kitchens with a variety of healthy and nutritious foods, drinks and snacks to encourage workers to eat a more balanced diet, but to also help prevent the much common afternoon slump.
Suggested Reading: “The Link between Food, Mood, and Productivity”
Moreover, food is a great way to bring people together. In addition to providing healthy snacks in the workplace, organizations should also consider setting specific times to provide free snacks.
For example, a coworking space could have weekly snacking hours at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. during which it provides fruits, nuts, smoothies, or other foods. It can send coworking members a reminder via email or an internal platform, or simply announce it to those present.
Doing this will encourage everyone to take a short break while also increasing the possibility of chance encounters.
Another great way to do this is to provide weekly lunches or breakfasts. An organization can set up a salad bar or a yogurt or smoothie bar and encourage workers to gather in the kitchen and build their own meal.
The idea is to provide an excuse for people to want to step away from their desks, even if just for a minute. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love free food?
2. Encourage people to step outside
Sometimes just breathing in the fresh air can help us clear our mind and reduce tension. One way organizations can encourage people to step outside is by providing seating areas in their outdoor spaces, whether a terrace, garden, balcony, or cafe.
By providing people with access to outdoor spaces where they can unwind and relax, organizations will be encouraging them to take breaks.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A chair, a bench, or simply a nice tree that provides some shade will do.
If your workplace doesn’t have any outdoor space, see if there’s a park nearby that your team can walk to. To encourage them to walk, you could put up a map of the walking path to the park, suggest cafes in the area, or even invite employees to host walking meetings in the surrounding area.
3. Create tech-free or relaxation zones within the workplace
There are many ways to go about this.
Some organizations have implemented meditation rooms, quiet areas, frustration zones, tech-free areas, and break out rooms to provide workers with an environment where they can comfortably take a break.
Some organizations even invite a local masseuse or yoga practitioners to give quick 15-minute massages or host a quick 30 minute yoga or meditation class.
Creating these types of areas within the workplace will send employees the message that it is OK to take a break from their tasks at hand to relax and de-stress.
To ensure that people actually use these zones or rooms, make them easily available and equip them with the right resources (i.e. provide mats in meditation rooms to encourage workers to meditate or do yoga, furnish break out areas with comfortable furniture like sofas and plush chairs, soundproof quiet areas, etc.).
Towards better breaks
Encouraging workers to take breaks will improve the wellbeing of individuals, while improving productivity and engagement.
One last tip: lead by example. Make sure that C-suite executives and managers are also taking regular breaks; if people see them taking breaks, they will feel more comfortable and less guilty doing it themselves.