Picture this – Thursday arvo in the office
Roger, one of my colleagues from another department pokes his nose through my office door.
“That’s old Cecil, been in the company 25 years, at least I think that’s his name.”
“Is he ok, he hasn’t moved in the last ten minutes?”
“Yeah, sure. I walked past him before and I’m sure he was breathing. I even thought about telling him to take a break. The big boys on LinkedIn reckon a bit of a walk is good for your productivity.”
“Well, did you?”
“No, no, I didn’t go near him in the end. But it’s the thought that counts. Isn’t it? He’d just stop working and he looks like he’d take a while to wind back up again if he stopped. Better to leave him to it, he can manage himself, surely.”
A lunch time stroll, um, no thanks
I am a lunchtime walker. When I cast my mind back, I think I have been walking at lunch time pretty consistently for at least 15 years. Having said that, there is always that little corporate image devil perched up there on my shoulder in his red Armani suit, continually hitting me with the “you sure this is ok?” And the more senior you become, the more you feel like you’re playing truant if you go for a walk at lunch time (whether it be power or stroll). Stroll is a particularly damaging image, don’t you think? Surely you’re in a hurry and you’re out there for a reason, a meeting, or a medical appointment, stress related cardiac monitoring as a minimum. You should be first and last in the office and nodding to the lunch time revellers in the breakout area as you head back to your desk with your microwaved lunch after a 5 hour straight run. You know what? Lately I have noticed our CEO out on the track, so I feel my decision is validated. If it’s good enough for the C Suite, then that’s sweet with me.
It got me thinking about breaks, why do we and why don’t we take them – should we, how often and when? An article in the New York Times tells us that a break is actually good for business.
“Recognizing the value of intermittent rest, we persuaded this firm to allow one group of accountants to work in a different way — alternating highly focused and uninterrupted 90-minute periods of work with 10-to-15-minute breaks in between, and a full one-hour break in the late afternoon, when our tendency to fall into a slump is higher. Our pilot group of employees was also permitted to leave as soon as they had accomplished a designated amount of work.
With higher focus, these employees ended up getting more work done in less time, left work earlier in the evenings than the rest of their colleagues, and reported a much less stressful overall experience during the busy season. Their turnover rate was far lower than that of employees in the rest of the firm. Senior leaders were aware of the results, but the firm didn’t ultimately change any of its practices.” (New York Times- Article 1)
The last sentence is pretty telling isn’t it.
There is so much information and knowledge now that provides a whole new work world of options for leaders to do things differently and better. I bet your sitting on a few gems right now, aren’t you? Yet still we resist. In this case, how often do you look around your team and make sure they are all up for a regular break and a good lunchtime rest, or are you more comfortable with the slow and dull whirr of nose on grindstone. What are you afraid of – maybe just having to answer this question honestly?
“Employees generally need to detach from their work and their work space to recharge their internal resources, he says. Options include walking, reading a book in another room or taking the all-important lunch break, which provides both nutritional and cognitive recharging.” (New York Times- Article 1)
We talk a lot about the value of vulnerability in leadership. Vulnerability as a leader is not only limited to baring your soul. It’s about taking risks, whatever they may be, since only risks lead to change, improvement, innovation and creativity. In this case, it’s about trusting your team. My new mantra is: Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. (Click to Tweet this)
Here’s my challenge to you
Take a risk and encourage some down time. See what happens. Take a bit for yourself while you’re at it. Keep an eye on your team and see who’s doing what (and also why). Take a walk yourself and invite a team member along to show that it is not only ok and acceptable, but it’s actually desirable. In fact, pull them all together for a break and explain the benefits of good breaks and let them know that you’re not just doing it for them. You’re actually doing it selfishly for the increased creativity, focus, and productivity you’ll receive and deliver to the business.
Please comment on what you do in your team to balance work and rest breaks, and what the impact is. Got to go now. Off for a walk.