When Breaks are Broken – Week 7

Inside every issue of a business magazine, you’re practically guaranteed to find articles and images reminding us how awesome it is to work at Google, Facebook, or another tech company. Modern environments with natural lighting, complete with bean back chairs and the most positive environment imaginable combine to form a workplace utopia. But what about the rest of us? It’s great to read about the great employee environments companies like this create – but I always ask myself, why aren’t all businesses like this? Clearly, there are benefits to positive environments and letting employees disconnect and relax in a comfortable way, otherwise, Google wouldn’t waste their money. So what then is the holdup? Not only do many Americans not have access to an awesome break room, but they also don’t end up taking a break at all. But why not? Why don’t we encourage good breaks while at work?

There are two reasons

In my experience, breaks are either seen as a waste of time or else executed in a way that robs them of their full power. Let’s begin by examining the first reason. Proponents of this belief will tell us that breaks are a waste of time and that they just have too much to do, so a break isn’t possible. This group believes that taking a break will only set them 15 – 30 minutes behind schedule, and they would instead use this extra time to get a jump on their task list. While this attitude is admirable due to the individual’s hard work and persistence, the assumptions made here are not necessarily correct. In fact, studies have shown a direct link between our productivity and taking breaks. That is, of course, if the break is executed correctly.

When the break is broken

This leads us to the second reason why breaks don’t work: they’re not done correctly. At this point, you might be curious exactly how hard it is to take a break – let alone take a break “correctly.” But stay with me, it’s true, and it happens much more often than it should. An effective break should allow the employee to disconnect from their job and rejuvenate their body and mind to return to work with higher focus. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure that employees have an environment they can relax in. It may not offer all of the luxuries of a Silicon Valley break room, but that’s okay. It doesn’t take a lot to create a useful break room. Just keep the goal of encouraging your employees to disconnect in the front of your mind as you create the space.

An investment in your team

If you’re part of a business that doesn’t actively encourage people to take breaks, I encourage you to give it a try. Although you lose a half hour of work from that employee, the loss will most likely be made up during the remainder of their shift as they will return with greater focus and energy. Furthermore, you’re making a daily investment in the health and happiness of your team every time you encourage a break. And while it’s a small thing, small things tend to have a habit of adding up over time to create something bigger and better than we ever expected.

What did you think? Leave some feedback! :)

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