When work is stressful on a daily basis, things can get overwhelming in a short period of time. This is one of the classic reasons for burnout to occur, causing even the most productive employees to fall flat on their faces.
Those in leadership positions often find themselves wondering what happened, yet the proof is usually right in front of them -- their staff is overworked.
It may seem like working day in, day out is the solution to getting as much done as possible, but things will inevitably fall apart if you don't allow your staff to take breaks throughout the day.
When most people think about taking breaks at work, scurrying off into a corner and quickly eating lunch is often what comes to mind. Sadly, this doesn't scratch the surface of what a break is capable of providing modern employees.
For breaks at work to be effective, there needs to be a refreshing change of pace that allows your staff to escape their work, even for just a short amount of time. This shouldn't be too much to ask, no matter what their job is. Ultimately, this will motivate staff members to be more productive down the line.
Consider the following, all of which are good reasons for employees to step away from the desk throughout the day.
Perspective is everything during a busy workday. It helps your staff make important decisions that can influence the scope and outcome of their work ... but it doesn't come easy.
When employees are constantly working against the tide, it's impossible to gain perspective ... because they aren't giving themselves the opportunity to see things from the outside.
Encourage them to step away for a short period of time, and they'll gain an entirely new perspective that will lead them to make smarter decisions.
Health is our greatest wealth, and improving it should always be a top priority. You and your staff may not think you're doing a disservice to your health by sitting at your desk all day, but you might be surprised to find out that you are.
Sitting all day long can have a negative impact on circulation, which is why it's essential to get up and move at least once every hour. This increases blood flow, which improves the functionality of your muscles, and genuinely keeps you from feeling sluggish.
Again, encourage employees to take a break, stand up, and move around a bit.
Getting the creative juices flowing is easier said than done, especially on days when nobody in the office is "feeling it." Even so, many people make the mistake of plugging along ... forcing themselves to churn out sub-par work without taking quality into consideration.
If employees are pushing-out boring and mundane results that lack creativity, there's no way they'll gain the respect they deserve. Taking a break from the action allows your staff to recharge their mental batteries, thus improving the chances of coming up with a genius idea when they get back to work.
Increasing and enhancing productivity and staff motivation is something that every professional should focus on, but many people take the wrong path to get there.
A productive and engaged employee isn't necessarily one who works 80-hour weeks.
Rather, productivity should be measured by the quality of the work. When your staff is taking breaks at work, they'll return with a fresh head, which means they'll get more done.
Have you or your employees ever been working on something intently, only to find that five minutes later you're surfing a variety of websites that have nothing to do with work at all?
You are not alone. I find myself doing this all the time.
Workday distractions pop up, left and right, and many are difficult to ignore. Often, this results from needing a break. If you motivate staff members to get up periodically throughout the day, they'll feel less of a pull towards wasting time at the computer.
Staring at a computer all day long isn't exactly the healthiest thing in the world. One thing that can truly take its toll on your health is eye strain, which occurs rather frequently for those constantly fixed on computer screens.
Taking just five minutes away from a computer screen is typically all you and your employees need to keep eye strain at bay, and it's crucial to sustaining work for a long period of time.
Stress is one of the main things that causes burnout and employee turnover. Avoiding stress is extremely difficult when your organization is overwhelmed with work, but getting that work done will be impossible if your staff is feeling an excessive amount of pressure.
Sometimes, the best way to lift stress is to encourage everyone to take a 5-10 minute break every hour. This may seem like a short period of time but it's enough to allow people to clear their heads and get through the workday unscathed.
Many employees feel as if they need to handle tasks and make decisions without anyone's help. More often than not, this is counterproductive.
There will inevitably be situations where employees need to consult each other, or the manager, before moving forward with a decision ... and taking breaks will give them the opportunity to do so.
If you don't allow them to take a break and engage in water cooler talk, they might end up making poor decisions down the line.
If you thinks it's okay to go through the workday with no fuel other than a few cups of coffee, it's time to re-evaluate things.
Food is essential to keeping you and your employees' energy and memory in top form, and there are many different routes you can take in terms of nutrition.
If you and your staff aren't taking a break to eat and stuff some healthy food in your mouth, creativity and productivity levels will no doubt suffer. This is just another reason why taking breaks at work is essential to achieving success and motivating staff members.
Every now and then, you and your staff will have to some mundane and boring tasks. While often necessary, these tasks can take their toll on an employee's psyche.
This is why it's important to give everyone some time for refreshment as they plug along. Stepping away for a few moments can make or break the ability to get a group of boring tasks finished ... and it's a far better route to take than trying to bust through things as fast as possible.
There are countless benefits associated with taking breaks at work, as seen above. However, knowing how to get started is often the most difficult part of the equation. If you're looking for new ways to motivate staff through taking breaks, consider the following ways to approach break-time. These tips will help you recharge your employees on even the most stressful days ... and learning how to make use of them is more than worth your while.
From lowered stress levels to a reduction in blood pressure, the benefits associated with regular meditation are plentiful. One of the great things about meditating is that a 15 to 20 minute session is typically all you need, especially when conducted once or twice a day. All your employees need to meditate is a little bit of time and a quiet space. If you plan it out properly, the workday serves as a perfect time and place for getting some meditation in.
Sometimes, the best way of taking breaks at work is by focusing on something completely different and non-work related. Give employees a half hour to devote to break-time, so they can work on a personal project. Art, music, and anything else they might consider a strong interest or hobby is worth nurturing. Encourage and motivate staff to do this daily, weekly, monthly, or however you see fit.
Many people would love to hit the gym during their lunch break, yet not everyone is afforded such a luxury. Even if you work in an industrial park, there's no excuse for not getting a little bit of exercise throughout the day. A few laps around the building should take only a short period of time to complete. So, if you and your staff are in a high-stress situation, getting outside for a brisk walk or run will do everyone some good.
How many times have you seen your employees on a smart phone or computer when they're actually supposed to be taking a break? You probably do it too. You might think you're getting a moment away from work, but you're still plugged in. Break-time is for giving your eyes a rest from the screens you stare at throughout the day, and at the very least, you and your staff owe it to yourselves to recharge.
Getting back to the whole concept of water cooler chat, one of the best ways for employees to spend break-time may be to catch up with a colleagues they haven't spoken with in a while. Many professionals find that even if they really like their colleagues, they have limited time for off-topic discussions. Breaks at work are ideal for this, and you never know what could come up.
There's nothing worse than having a stressful day at work only to remember you have loads of errands to take care of afterwards. For busy professionals, it happens all too often and can get in the way of what might otherwise be an enjoyable evening. Running errands during a break is an excellent way to curb this potential problem, especially if your office is located in a business district.
When your mind is focused on work throughout the day, it can be difficult to find time for making phone calls to family and friends. Catching-up always makes people feel better, which is why taking a break during the workday to make some personal phone calls can be such a great idea. This way, you and your staff won't have to worry about calling people too late in the day, and you're able to distract your mind from whatever you might be working on at the moment.
For some people, there's no greater satisfaction than volunteering for a cause. Volunteering during the day can not only help you and your employees to relax, but you'll come back to work with a sense of gratification and motivation that is difficult to obtain otherwise. There are countless ways to volunteer in your community, and it often comes down to simply choosing an interest and researching how to get involved.
Laughter is often the best medicine, and when it comes to overworked employees, this couldn't be more true. While it's best to take a break from the Internet when you aren't working, sometimes you and your staff can get a lot of enjoyment out of watching or listening to something funny online. A favorite comedian, a funny clip, or anything in between can be enough to take the edge off at work, and they're only a few clicks away.
Napping for more than 15 or 20 minutes is usually not advisable, as it causes people to feel more tired than they did before. A quick power nap that falls within this time frame, however, can help you and your staff feel more alert and relaxed at the same time. If you can find a quiet place to unwind, taking a quick nap may be almost as effective as meditating for a short period of time.
Taking breaks at work and engaging in water cooler talk are necessary parts of the workday. It brings employees together on a more personal level. It can also bring managers and employees closer together. It can be a great part of your employee engagement strategy, too. Likewise, breaks are essential to boosting productivity and motivating staff ... and the more innovative you can get with how you and your employees take take them, the more likely it is you'll see the benefits firsthand.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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