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Help Your Employees Take Better Breaks (And Actually Return to Work Refreshed): 3 Practical Suggestions

on Friday, 28 February 2020. Posted in Occupational Health, Mental Wellbeing

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Mention the word break in most offices and people start thinking of rushing to a gulp down a hurried lunch. But breaks can be so much more. A well-rested workforce is productive and enjoys work satisfaction. As a manager, you are in a position to improve the quality of breaks that your team takes.

How Can Companies Help Employees Take Better Breaks?

With all the benefits of regular breaks, creating a culture that prioritizes rest is key. There are many things you can do to make this a reality in your company. Some can be implemented immediately while others need long term planning.

1. Make Taking Breaks Appealing

Positive reinforcement is the best way to create a habit. When you make doing the right thing easy, people will default to it. Take a look at your workplace and practices to see what you can do to make breaks appealing. Some examples include:

Provide Snacks and Relaxation Toys

There’s only so much time that one can spend staring. Empty break rooms are discouraging. Your staff are more likely to take a break when they have activities and healthy snacks. Especially if the games have a communal aspect. Board games and simple snacks are great tools to encourage breaks.

Food makes everything better. If you have an office kitchen, ensure it is always stocked with the essentials. This will allow your staff to fix their own snacks and assemble food when they need a quick energy boost. Well-stocked kitchens boost morale since staff are never hungry.

Create a Designated Rest Area

Depending on the company you manage, designated rest areas are essential. For industrial companies, ensure break areas allow staff members to sit comfortably.

Provide a room where they can change out of work gear during their break. This could be essential in preventing cross-contamination in sensitive industries. A reliable uniform vendor should provide a laundry management service that allows you to manage soiled uniforms.

Explore Outdoor Rest Options

Look outside your office building for ideas on how to improve breaks. If you have access to a lawn or park, encourage staff to take walks or short picnics. Nature is soothing and a change in environment is a great way to give your staff a break.

2. Get Management Involved

The best leaders lead by example. Consistent action creates a culture. Not policies. Rules alone can never inspire your team to adopt new habits. As a manager, become strategic in how you behave.

Incentivise Taking Breaks

When taking a break is going against the grain, employees will shy away from being the odd one out. To create ease around breaks, start fun things like scavenger hunts to give staff a chance to leave their desks and interact.

Gamification is also a great strategy in building habits that stick. To teach individual staff members how to keep track of their rest, consider starting a rest challenge. The person who uses all or most of their allotted rest time gets rewarded.

Management Must Lead by Example

Your actions reveal what you value. Your staff will watch how management behaves for hints on what is important. When you say that rest is crucial, make sure you take enough breaks. Lead by example with simple things like switching to walking meetings for a change of pace, or prioritising and modelling other stress and time-management strategies. When you use the resources available to your team, you give them the permission they need to adopt the habits.

Reward Performance with Time Off

When your team has worked hard to meet a deadline or deliver a project, give them time off to recover. After going above and beyond, encourage breaks that allow staff to regain their energy. They could connect to family or friends that they haven't seen in a while.

Adventurous companies have policies that encourage staff to take one month off to explore their interests. This popular policy acknowledges that employees have other interests in life.

Provide Relaxation Tools

Optimise your workplace to allow rest and relaxation. Some offices have a cafe-style break room in an open ambient space with soothing music. You can also add relaxation tools like creating a meditation room with Bluetooth earphones. This allows your staff to listen to meditation apps and relax.

Relaxation tools can include making provisions for remote work. When you provide staff with the option of working from home, they become more productive. Showing that you trust your staff challenges them to maintain trust and job performance.

3. Prioritise Rest and Relaxation Policies

As you lead by example and improve the break rooms, take a look at your HR policies. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade. As a company evolves, the needs evolve. Ensure your policies change along with them.

Implement Minimum Vacation Days

As opposed to enforcing maximum vacation days, insist on minimum vacation days. Most employees don’t use their vacation days. Changing the focus will encourage more people to take vacations to comply. Taking a holiday is a great way to prevent burnout.

If your company already does this, consider creating unlimited vacation time. This may sound like a bad idea but it has been proven to work. When employees are judged by the quality of work they produce, they are motivated to be fully present at work. Positive reinforcement is always a powerful force.

Use Tech to Make Vacation Management Easier

Vacation policies can become complex to manage manually. Ensure you have the best software for your needs in order to make the process easy for your staff and HR. When it’s painless to get time off, staff are more likely to take quality breaks when they need them.

Implement Safe Working Policies to Prevent Overworking

With these generous vacation policies, ensure you have processes to handle and distribute the work of anyone going on holiday. This will prevent overloading and overworking. Safety includes the prevention of workplace fatigue.

For industrial companies, safety controls could be as simple as paying attention to shift management. When you have people with demanding jobs, be aware of how many hours they can work. Then arrange their shifts to manage this safely.


To conclude, creating a winning workplace extends further than paying your people well. Look out for their mental and physical welfare. As a manager, optimise the office for rest, lead by example and update your HR policies. Coaching can be a useful tool for employees requiring further support or accountability, in order to maximise their engagement at work. This way, you will always have happy employees.


Article contribution by Alsco New Zealand. Alsco aims to help create a healthier and safer workplace by providing hospital-grade first aid solutions for workplaces.


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