It’s one thirty in the afternoon and I have been sitting in this chair for nearly six hours. There is a conference call droning on that I shouldn’t have accepted, a half-eaten energy bar by my keyboard, while I multi-task with emails, instant messages, and the occasional pop-in question.
Sound familiar? Have you ever felt like this on a Monday, or any other day?
As I look around the office, I am not alone. People rarely take time for lunch anymore, let alone eat together, and the only people I see taking regular breaks are those who smoke.
That was two years ago. Before I gave myself permission to begin taking breaks on my own and with my team.
Permission seems to matter. The #1 reason that people don’t take breaks is they feel guilty; primarily due to the lack of their managers and leaders taking breaks.
When I started taking short breaks with our team, very few wanted to join me. I was fairly new to the organization, and even though I was a couple of levels up we needed to get everyone involved for them to feel it was acceptable.
We began with a 5-minute standing stretch routine 2x per day and then started a 15-minute walking break team. The positive effects were amazing:
- In just 5 minutes we were smiling and our faces relaxed.
- After two weeks, people were interacting more freely and someone suggested eating their lunch together in the conference room – something they hadn’t done for years!
- Within 6 weeks, people were freely discussing challenges and developing solutions together on our brief walks. I witnessed solutions developed between groups who normally do not interact in the day.
So with all of the scientific data and examples of breaks being beneficial, why haven’t we adopted change on a larger scale?
It appears to involve leadership. In many professions, very few leaders are seen taking breaks. Law firms, accounting, financial services, business administrators, and healthcare workers are notorious for long hours with few breaks.
We need to give ourselves and our employees permission to take breaks, unplugged.
Two minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes is truly all it takes to lower your stress and recharge. Disconnecting for short periods from a project or task actually adds time to your day by creating endorphins that fuel creativity and improve decision-making.
Try it. Here’s a 3-minute break you can do most anywhere.
Please share your ideas or ask a question at firstname.lastname@example.org.