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5 ways to help your employees take better breaks

by Tom Freeman

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Editor’s Note: It’s common knowledge at this point: happy employees are more productive. And if you’re reading a Headspace article on breaks, it’s pretty likely you already believe in them. It’s probably in your company’s handbook that employees are not only entitled to breaks but are meant to take them. But do they? Below, Headspace’s Learning & Development Manager Tom Freeman breaks down how to not only get your employees to take breaks but how to build those breaks so employees actually return to work refreshed.

Taking better breaks can be a vital part of looking after both body and mind, and it’s a foundational component of working smarter. Better breaks allow teams to stay energized and engaged, even when work is especially challenging.

It’s important that managers and leaders live by example and prioritize taking better breaks.

Here are five practical suggestions that you could bring to your workplace to help your employees take better breaks:

1. Schedule blocks for breaks

The working day can run away with us. Incoming emails, long meetings, and chatty coworkers can add up to very little time to focus. To help your team regain their focus and clarity, block out time for breaks during the day. Creating actual calendar blocks prompt people to think twice before scheduling a meeting in that block.

At Headspace, we have two ‘no meeting’ blocks every day at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (that afternoon ‘dip’ time). These can be used for meditation, getting outside or just for focus time if our team needs it.

2. Create space to take care of the mind

There’s so much research suggesting that taking some time to meditate can be a good way to take a break. Meditation can positively impact our relationships with stress, anxiety and with other people. Try booking a quiet meeting room for 15 minutes each day to provide a space for your team to either play a meditation through a loudspeaker or provide some headphones so they can use their phones.

As a leader, it can also be useful to identify ‘champions’ in your team who might be good ambassadors for meditation, and if they’re comfortable doing so, ask them to tell the team about it through your internal communication tools.

3. Stock the kitchen

Food can provide a great opportunity for your team to get together and get to know each other a bit better, rather than always leaving the office to eat. Provide healthy and nutritious food that your team can prepare themselves. This doesn’t need to be expensive. Salads with protein can be fun to make and help reduce afternoon dips or crashes. Healthy snacks like almonds or fruit can also help deter afternoon sugar crashes.

In our office, we have a central kitchen and snack area that acts as a good chance to step away from the desk, say hello to coworkers, and grab a healthy snack or drink.

4. Get outside

Leaving technology in the office to get some fresh air and greenery can do wonders for resting the mind and taking a break from sitting at a desk. It’s a good way to get the blood pumping and can even help with creativity. See if there’s a park nearby that your team can walk around or even meditate in. As a bonus, think about purchasing some bikes and helmets that your team can borrow to really get the blood pumping.

You can even apply this to ‘non-break’ time by encouraging your leaders to take a break from the meeting room and do walking meetings outside or in a different space.

5. Lead by example

In addition to identifying and empowering some employees to live this stuff, it’s also important that your managers and leaders live by example and prioritize taking better breaks.

Whether it’s taking time for lunch with your team, taking 10 minutes out to meditate at work, or taking 5 minutes to stretch your legs during the day, leading by example shows that it’s important and that it’s acceptable to take care of yourself at work.

This week, see if you can help your employees start taking better breaks with one of the steps above. To learn how Headspace can help, visit headspace.com/work.

Tom Freeman

Tom is a business psychologist with an interest in organizational culture and employee wellbeing. He is the Learning & Development Manager at Headspace.

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