Take a Break to Increase Productivity

Discussion
Sep 19, 2011

A survey from Harris Interactive found that recess was key to improving workplace health and productivity, and re-energizing employees.

The survey was sponsored by Keen, the footwear brand which earlier this year launched Keen’s Recess Revolution tour, a series of events designed to inspire adults to “reclaim playtime and take much-needed 10-minute breaks from the daily office grind by escaping to the outdoors.” With a pop-up playground featuring tetherball courts, Frisbee, hula hoops and more, the tour has made stops in Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco. The survey was released on September 14 on World Recess Day, a day-long outdoor event held by Keen in Washington D.C.

The Survey on Workplace Recess, conducted during August 2011 and involving 1,099 adults employed full-time, revealed:

  • More than half (53 percent) agreed that a 10-minute “recess” outdoor break initiated at their workplace every day would make them a healthier, happier or more productive employee;
  • Forty-one percent felt outdoor breaks would help them deal with stress at work;
  • Forty-four percent indicated that they would participate in recess if it were offered at their workplace, with the greatest interest among women (53 percent) and Millennials (51 percent).

At the same time, more than 70 percent said they’ve never participated in a paid recess-type break outside of lunchtime. Seventy-eight percent (78 percent) felt that certain factors would need to be in place for recess to be a part of the workday, including encouragement from top management (39 percent), participation from their boss and/or colleagues (25 percent), a designated time of day for recess to avoid scheduling conflicts (35 percent), and recess becoming part of the company culture (33 percent).

Dr. Toni Yancey, author of Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time and co-director of the Center for Health Equity and professor of health services at UCLA, said in a statement that short activity breaks would aid in reducing obesity rates and sick days while lifting employees’ mood and subsequently improving productivity

“If employers offered and encouraged a paid activity break during the day, it would offer a real return on investment for them — delivering $1.50 – $2.00 for every dollar spent implementing the program, according to our estimates,” said Dr. Yancey.

Added James Curleigh, Keen’s CEO, “I hope that the idea of workplace recess will catch on with companies that aspire to be great places to work, ultimately making recess as common as casual Friday.”

Discussion Question: What do you think of the proposed benefits and feasibility of scheduled short activity breaks for retail store and headquarters employees?

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18 Comments on "Take a Break to Increase Productivity"

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J. Peter Deeb
BrainTrust

I believe in short breaks (whether activity based or not) to recharge the batteries and to allow a little decompression from the stresses encountered in any job. It’s why retail unions have breaks in many of their contracts. Both headquarters and retail people need time to take a breath, whether they are dealing with customers or moving from meeting to meeting which is such a big part of a corporate workday. Smart management in companies either already encourage this or subtly overlook a little down time by their people.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

This may sound ridiculous but back when I still worked in an office and was also still a cigarette smoker, I found a lot of benefit in a “smoke break” a couple of times a day. In fact, after I stopped smoking, I’d still go outside for the “break.”

I think it’s a great idea and applaud it wholeheartedly.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
6 years 2 months ago

While the survey and its promotion are well-served for Keen, the concept of workplace “recess” has merits, even beyond helping to fight the obesity battle.

Whether it’s group recess or individuals taking time out for a walk outside (e.g., to Starbucks), breaks go a long way especially in our world of always-on/always-connected real-time connectivity — not to mention the increasingly common “workplace ADD”!

One thing our firm recently did was move into office space with two outdoor areas. Now that summer in Atlanta is coming to a close, having fresh air at our doorstep, especially 9 stories above the street, is welcome by everyone.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Taking a break and doing something active it a good idea. Will companies actually do it and encourage employees to participate? Not if it necessitated the need for employees to change clothes and clean up afterwards.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Being able to step away from stress of being ‘on point’ with the public certainly has its benefits as outlined in the survey sponsored by Keen. It is important to note the distinction between ‘recess’ and a ‘break’. I’m not sure standing outside the back door having a cigarette or a cup of coffee and a candy bar in the ‘break room’ offers the same re-energizing benefits, physical or fiscal, than a brisk 10-minute walk around the block. Given the weak state of customer service, retailers should be concentrating on ways to empower their employees the other seven plus hours of the workday.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
6 years 2 months ago

I think it’s a good idea. I especially like the team-based approaches as a compliment to time-off breaks that are sometimes used by Asian retailers.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

While I think an outdoor break might be more beneficial than an indoor one, having any short break is a good idea. It provides a chance to step away from the work related activities and refresh. The benefits of some form of physical activity include forcing the participant to think about something other than work which a “coffee break” surrounded by fellow employees might not. I am sure that someone will point out all the issues that come with “forced activities, etc., but I would encourage all companies to explore how they could enable their employees to take a break.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

I now work from home and I take recess breaks several times a day. In good weather I do a few yard chores, water the garden or cut some flowers for my desk. In bad weather I might run the stairs a few times or do ten minutes of hand weights with music cranked up loud. Or even, God forbid, shovel the snow. Every brain needs a break, and while on break, that brain is subconsciously processing the solutions/opportunities that help us thrive when we get back to the desk.

My favorite recess toy is my camera. It’s the change in perspective that is so helpful.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
6 years 2 months ago

Anything that changes up the day will work to stimulate productivity. Short activity type breaks are a great idea to give the associate a much needed diversion from the stresses of the workplace. Adding some sort of physical aspect will get the blood flowing and keep your people sharp. Great idea and much needed for the monotony of our industry.

Mark Price
BrainTrust

The benefits of short breaks are indisputable. For employees to operate at the highest level, they need to rest, just like athletes do. In addition, encouraging breaks provides support that the company truly is out for the best interests of their employees, resulting in increased employee engagement with the company and with customers.

For this approach to succeed, management must truly act in the interests of the employee, by making such breaks acceptable in the culture (in fact, encouraged) and modeling the behavior themselves.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Office workers need breaks!…but an organized break sounds impossible to pull off. I once worked at a company where everyone was expected to drop everything and attend weekly birthday parties, and it was hugely disruptive. Dodge ball, anyone?

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust

Theoretically, aren’t we all supposed to get breaks anyway? You work 4 hours, you’re supposed to get a 15 minute break? I know I rarely take them — as a desk-bound information worker, sometimes I don’t even take a real lunch break either. It’s definitely good to unplug, get some sunshine every once in awhile. Maybe if adult recess takes off, they’ll reconsider the crunch that has been put on kid recess in schools.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

It’s a low cost way to build a better workforce. The above data is just a survey by a company that could really benefit if the idea catches on, but real research has been done on the benefits of taking a break from work, getting some kind of exercise, etc.

I just don’t like the idea of a structured recess. Does that mean I have to go out and play even if I don’t want to? What if I don’t like the game or the other kids? What about the bully on the playground, who’s going to pick the teams, and who gets to be the ref?

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
6 years 2 months ago

There are physical and psychological benefits to a well designed “recess” strategy. The key is infusing a bit of fun into the sameness of most retail workdays, whether in the office or on the sales floor. The Pike’s Place Fish guys are a well-used example of this done right, but there are many others out there. It is difficult to schedule in today’s lean staffing store environment, but worth the effort. Especially when the boss plays too. It can be as simple as a 15 minute fast-paced walk outside to a green area to enjoy a coffee and a chat, or a little more planed, such as a once or twice monthly walk to an ice cream place as a reward. Don’t make it too structured, or you’ll lose the ‘fun’ element. This can be a big part of an ongoing and authentic engagement strategy.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Are we more productive in the US than other developed countries? That often is debatable. Well, we take the least amount of vacation/holidays. We work the most hours per week. Would a 10-minute break help us? Yes, I think it would. As a population, we are overworked.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
6 years 2 months ago

It’s rather sad that our time-starved, overworked, vacationless culture has created the need to schedule short bursts of time to play. But recess was always my favorite subject, and the overall goal here seems worthy of exploring: The creation of a healthier, happier employee who is more productive.

That said, paid recess at the store level seems like it would be quite problematic, given the large number of stores and store employees, as well as the scheduling issues retailers already face. For store associates, it may be more worthy to provide them with incentives to join gyms or create other fun activities, e.g., retail softball leagues. At retail headquarters, it’s likely paid recess could be better implemented, especially given the ability to designate headquarters’ space for recess while ensuring the store’s customer service isn’t jeopardized.

Where stores could play a role is in helping consumers to participate in recess-type fun activities, e.g., creating/selling the games, toys and/or active wear needed for recess activities, offering tips for creating recess breaks at the consumer’s company, or sponsoring pop-up recess venues and activities for consumers in key areas.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Sorry it took me so long to jump into this dialogue; I was on recess. Seriously, I think the concept is spot on. Our daily routines are no longer routine and communication from the multitude of time-saving devices actually have caused us to LOSE time. Taking a recess may be our only escape.

Our company has a FUN committee that plans sporadic events throughout the year that get people out from their work space and moving around. It lifts morale, builds camaraderie, and increases energy levels.

It’s time to move the idea from the deepest recesses of our brains to the frontal lobe.

Jerry Gelsomino
BrainTrust

My wife came home from work today, exhausted. “I didn’t have a moment to myself,” she exclaimed. That’s not good for anybody, but I suspect pretty much the norm for most folks. Recess! Yes!

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