- It may be possible to help coworking members avoid burnout situations by encouraging them to take brain breaks.
- The best brain breaks are simple, easy to set up, and can accommodate different abilities.
- By facilitating brain breaks, you’ll show that you have your members’ wellbeing at heart.
It’s never been more important to give ourselves — and others — regular breaks at work. You need only glance at the burnout statistics to see why:
- 76% of employees experience workplace burnout at least sometimes (Gallup)
- Mentions of “burnout” and “mental health” in Glassdoor reviews are rising (Glassdoor)
- The gap in burnout between women and men is almost double (McKinsey)
Is avoiding burnout situations possible by simply taking what are known as “brain breaks?”
Not entirely. A combination of things can lead to (or exacerbate) burnout, including job role and industry challenges, childcare pressures and financial circumstances. But brain breaks can help to alleviate feelings of stress during the work day.
Until recently, the term “brain break” was mainly used in an educational context to refer to the breaks children take between learning tasks. Schools often use brain breaks as a behavior management tactic to help students unwind and refocus.
According to Amanda Morin, author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education, “in the classroom, brain breaks are quick, structured breaks using physical movement, mindfulness exercises, or sensory activities.”
Now, amid a corporate atmosphere beset by uncertainty and burnout, brain breaks have found their way into the workplace environment.
Studies show that brain breaks — also called micro-breaks — can have a noticeable impact on people’s wellbeing and overall productivity at work. They have the power to boost concentration, reduce stress, improve people’s perception of their work and even mitigate (to some extent) the negative physical effects of desk work.
A few years ago, the ping-pong table was the ultimate symbol of “taking a break” in the office. Many ended up gathering dust and have since been replaced by other furnishings, while others continue to be used — but not by everyone.
So, how can coworking operators encourage members to take brain breaks? It’s as simple as providing a space for them and making the activities a visible part of your offerings.
Fortunately, today’s top brain break activities don’t require a lot of space, resources or cash. They’re simple, easy to set up, and can accommodate different abilities. Importantly, they’re not time-restrictive: individuals can parktake for a few seconds or 15 minutes or more, depending on their needs and availability.
1. Deep breathing and yoga
Deep breathing has the power to increase energy, relieve stress and encourage good posture in just a few seconds. But it doesn’t come easy for the unpracticed.
Video tutorials can be an effective route into deep breathing adeptness. As a coworking operator, consider creating an open access bank of deep breathing resources for members to dip into whenever they need. Here are two examples:
a) How to get started with deep breathing
b) Deep breathing for one minute
Yoga has always been a popular part of the coworking scene, and it doesn’t always have to be facilitated in-person. Virtual yoga sessions, like this one by Yoga With Adrienne, are free, short, easy to access and don’t require equipment.
2. Coloring books
One of the best things about adult coloring books — particularly in the workplace — is that they’re non-competitive. There’s no incentive to rush; individuals can complete as much as they want, as quickly or as slowly as they want.
Coloring is also mindful: it encourages the participant to focus on the moment.
Consider leaving coloring books and pencils on the tables in breakout areas. There are lots of well-reviewed options out there that provide temporary escapism. For example, Worlds of Wonder: A Colouring Book for the Curious by Johanna Basford was voted best overall adult colouring book in 2021 by the Independent.
3. Creative prompts
In education, as Morin explains, brain breaks are usually physical, mindful or sensory in nature, effectively providing the participant with a rest from cerebral activities.
Yet, in the workplace, activities that require the individual to exercise their intellect for something else could also provide the brain with a different type of break.
Examples of these kinds of brain break — or brain shift — activities could include sudoku and crossword puzzles. Also, creative prompts could provide workers with a respite from repetitive or, conversely, overly conceptual tasks.
You could introduce a collaborative writing project for members to engage with during their brain break time. In a notebook, write the opening sentence of a story; leave it in a breakout area for individuals to add to when they feel inspired.
They could add a sentence or a paragraph: the choice is theirs.
4. Local walks
It’s no secret that sitting at a desk in a state of inertia for hours at a time can lead to physical and emotional fatigue. Encourage members to build movement into their day by signposting them to the nearest green spaces. Why not create a printed or virtual map with all the routes to green spaces highlighted?
Our ability to concentrate for more than a few seconds is beginning to wane. We are in constant receipt of information, much of it visual and from different sources (phone messages, work email, social media, news feeds, etc.).
Reading can provide our brains with a much needed break from the disparate visual noise, and boost our concentration skills. It’s also a stress buster: one study found that half an hour of reading reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress as effectively as yoga and humor.
One way to encourage reading among coworking members is to create a library. If you’re cash strapped, consider sourcing second hand bookshelves and place them in your breakout spaces. Start with a few books from a charity shop and encourage members to donate, swap and read excerpts of books throughout their working day.
Ultimately, brain breaks like these make people happier at work.
And if your members are happier at work, they’re less likely to leave and more likely to speak positively about your space to others. By encouraging and facilitating brain breaks, you’ll demonstrate that you have your members’ wellbeing at heart.