Turning points typically happen when you are faced with choices and you choose the direction of greatest change. I’d spent years at large employers, most recently as head of Benefits and Wellness at a national bank, and experienced first hand how valuable healthy breaks can be. I saw employees became engaged and energized with regular, scheduled breaks. After a sabbatical over the summer, I made the decision to spread the concepts of workplace wellness across multiple industries and BreakTogether was born.
Recently, I attended the Peak Work Performance Summit, an excellent two-week webinar interview series; and became more inspired. The summit featured discussions with over 25 thought leaders and authors who shared insights on happiness, mindfulness, and productivity in the workplace. Nearly every presenter touched upon the importance of taking mindful breaks in the workday to improve happiness, and productivity. Isn’t that what most companies care about for their employees? Happiness equates to engagement and companies with higher engagement are generally 14% more financially successful than their peers, according to Fortune’s Best Place to Work survey.
In my previous 10 years with two national employers, mindfulness programs were on the radar for employees, though it was challenging to roll out training to thousands of people in a meaningful way. We held events where leadership encouraged employees to take healthy breaks and found that people were still reluctant. This aligns with a Staple Office survey in 2014 of more than 1,200 managers. While 90% of managers say that breaks are important and they encourage employees to take them, nearly half of these managers (46%) don’t take breaks themselves because “they feel guilty”.
Studies confirmed that employees are hesitant to take breaks because managers and senior leaders are not seen taking them, yet breaks are exactly what our minds and bodies need in the work day. In a society that rewards longer hours and 24/7 connectivity, breaks are generally not part of our work culture. While wellness programs have improved movement, it’s the short mental breaks that are important to us humans, we are not computers.
I believe we need to address root cause. Mounting evidence supports short breaks away from the screen after 90 minutes of work. While businesses and managers can provide people with energizing speeches, or software with pop-up break reminders, there is no substitute for actually taking breaks together. This is where BreakTogether comes in. Our goal is to teach people at all levels within a company how to make time in their schedules for 15 or 30-minute break experiences to become more energized and increase productivity. We will also connect them with their community in a fun, interactive way.
With all there is to experience in Portland, it’s the perfect location to influence healthy breaks and community connections. I launched BreakTogether to teach people the Art of the Break.