How to manage stress and burnout at work
Breaks are important in the workplace and during anything we engage in. Whether we are working in an office space, construction site, training as a professional athlete, or driving a car, if we do not take breaks we fall into a loop of diminished productivity and performance. When we avoid taking breaks, the risk of accidents and injury increases, stress elevates and burnout lingers on the horizon. So how can leaders of organizations and companies rethink break-time to optimize performance and well-being?
Long before we even heard of Covid, we were told that breaks are good for our mental health. We know this and yet we still don’t make work breaks a priority. With the onset of a global pandemic, many of us have transitioned our desks from the office to the home, which has many advantages but is also fraught with many drawbacks.
Remote work has led to longer workdays, more emails, and increased distractions. Combine that with a back-to-back virtual meeting culture and skipping breaks can be easy.
Why we need breaks
Back when we were physically in the office, not only did we have consciously scheduled breaks, but we also had unconscious breaks; like walking to a meeting, a jaunt to the photocopier, or chatting by the water cooler. These micro-breaks gave us time to pause from cognitive tasks and to reboot before the next project or meeting. At home, we’re faced with isolation, anxiety, pressure to be accessible at all times or home-schooling kids.
Because of the work-from-home transition, more than ever we’re seeing what the costs of missed breaks actually are and how it impacts our well-being and performance. Burnout has become a built-in feature of the pandemic for many.
Athletes recognize that recovery is an essential part of peak performance and the same is true for associates.
“When we take care of ourselves, we see benefits to our physical and mental health, performance and productivity,” says Arianna Huffington.
She carries on by saying that:
“When we don’t, we pay a price: innovation, creativity, resilience, empathy, decision-making and team building are the first to disappear when we are burned out and depleted.”
Taking time to detach from work is important to prevent burnout and is just what is needed. So why are people so reluctant to take breaks?
Here is an outline of top ways to make both breaks and well-being a part of company culture.
The Science Behind Pause, Rest, and Reset
Last year, Human Factors Lab at Microsoft found that taking breaks between meetings prevents increasing stress from building up. “In back-to-back meetings for two hours, subjects’ brains showed a steady increase of beta waves, which are connected to stress. But when participants took a break between meetings, the beta activity decreased. Even more fascinating, the beta waves remained low even when followed by four additional consecutive virtual meetings.”
In the same study, researchers found that back-to-back virtual meetings decrease our focus. However, when breaks were taken, engagement and focus were maintained or increased. Beta waves dropped and didn’t spike as much at the beginning of the next meeting.
“The antidote to meeting fatigue is simple: take short breaks.”
Top Companies Schedule Breaks as part of their Wellness Culture
As we look forward to the next normal, it’s important for organizational leaders to normalize breaks in the remote work environment. One survey found that employees who took regular breaks reported higher engagement, job satisfaction, productivity, and the likelihood to recommend working there to others.
3 Tips to Make Things More Efficient & Pleasant for Everyone
By increasing efforts to communicate remotely, companies would benefit from greater team effectiveness, reduced stress and burnout among associates. The following tips are some ways to build such a culture:
Set “Away from my desk” notifications
Limit meetings around lunchtime
Organize lunchtime networking events
When creating an environment where health and well-being are prioritized from top-down, leaders can start a healthier trend by modeling breaks into the culture. Managers can talk with their teams about strategies on how to incorporate breaks into the work day while being more flexible with their associates. Behaviour change towards better workplace wellness works best when goals are personalized to the need of each team member.
Be Well 360 Designs Fast Fit Tips to Break Up the Workday
To assist in providing tools for associates to incorporate wellness into the workday, the BeWell 360 Program has specifically designed what we call FastFit Tips in 15 minutes or less to improve health and increase quality of work.
Some of the benefits Fast Fit’s breaks in15 minutes or less include:
Living through a pandemic leaves many of us in a chronic and perpetual state of anxiety. We’re exposed to “microdoses of unpredictable stress all the time,”
So now more than ever, we must consciously and collectively prioritize health and well-being. Organizational leaders have a key role in championing this initiative and can impact their associates’ lives from a state of surviving to thriving.
- Normalize Breaks: plan for breaks during working hours,
- Avoid cluttering your schedule before and after lunchtime,
- Networking with others is a great way to take our mind off work concerns until we are ready to return.
- Use back-to-back meetings with caution. It's always a good idea to plan for buffer time between meetings
- If you want to be successful, efficient and happy don't underestimate the power of your brain waves and how they influence your ability to perform!
Make sure these practices are part of your company culture.
Don't assume people will apply these best-practices if they are not clearly promoted and encouraged!
For information on how to bring the Fast Fit Tips Program to your organization, contact the BeWell 360 team at https://www.bewell360program.com/ or at 250-999-7447
Microsoft - Research Proves Your Brain Needs Breaks
HBR - Take Your Lunch Break
Indeed - Taking a Break from Work
University of Calgary - Working from home through COVID-19? Take micro-breaks and perform better, UCalgary expert says