Burnout, stress, anxiety, depression—employee well-being is at an all-time low. In fact, 84% of workers surveyed by Corporate Wellness Magazine reported at least one mental health challenge in the past year.
As we continue to navigate the new world of remote and hybrid work models while sliding further into inflation and a recession, these mental health challenges will no doubt be compounded by additional stressors. This means HR leaders really have their work cut out for them.
So what can HR leaders do to improve employee well-being? Is there a way to boost employees without detracting from the bottom line? There is.
The solution is taking breaks. Yes, breaks.
Breaks are the science-backed, easy-to-implement way to boost employee well-being amongst individuals and teams. And they’re universal: Breaks can be rolled out at every level of an organization, for any role, in any location. There are even some break tech solutions that do all of the work for you.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about leveraging breaks as your organization’s go-to wellness program…but first, let’s make sure you understand just how crucial employee well-being is to the success of your business.
Understanding How Employee Well-Being Can Make or Break Your Business
What is employee well-being?
Employee well-being is the full picture of health within three key pillars: mental, physical, and social. This overall state of well-being can be influenced by many factors, including relationships with teammates, workload, access to tools and resources, work-life balance, and overall job satisfaction.
Employees with high well-being feel supported and appreciated at work, have meaningful connections with their peers and bosses, and feel a strong sense of purpose.
Although our focus here remains on the workplace, it’s important to remember that factors outside work can also affect employee well-being. It’s not uncommon for an employee who is experiencing significant stressors in their personal life to rate lower in well-being, report more mental health challenges, or even take more sick days.
How does employee well-being impact performance?
Job satisfaction is often the first thing that comes to mind when employee well-being is mentioned—but the benefits go far beyond this. Research shows that employees with high well-being are typically more energized, engaged, productive, and even profitable. They have fewer on-the-job accidents and take fewer sick days.
Employees with high well-being are literally boosting your business. The 2019 Global Happiness and Wellbeing Policy Report found a positive correlation between employee satisfaction and company performance in four key areas: increased customer loyalty, higher employee productivity, higher employee profitability, and decreased turnover.
In other words, the happiest, healthiest employees are often the best workers and the biggest contributors to the bottom line.
Can breaks really support so many positive outcomes for your employees and your business? They sure can. Let’s dig in…
Breaks: The Underrated Boost for Employee Well-Being
How do breaks improve employee well-being?
It seems like scientists are fascinated by breaks because there are countless studies proving that taking breaks can:
- Boost physical and emotional health
- Decrease the negative effects of sitting for a long time
- Improve memory, learning, productivity, and creativity
- Prevent decision fatigue and procrastination
- Restore motivation to reach goals
And the more mentally demanding the work at hand, the more crucial a break may be. An Austrian study found that taking a break from mentally demanding tasks to engage in physical activity or relaxation exercises resulted in increased vigor and decreased fatigue.
So don’t breaks detract from work? Aren’t employees getting less work done if they’re taking breaks? Well…no. A widely-touted study by the Draugiem Group found that the highest 10% of performers actually took the most breaks, averaging 17 minutes of break time for every 52 minutes worked. Breaks enabled their employees to refresh their cognitive and physical energy stores to keep performing at a high level.
Our CEO, David Howe, often suggests: “It’s clear that breaks are more than a luxury—science proves they’re absolutely essential to boosting employee well-being and, ultimately, your bottom line.” And he’s right: With all these benefits, breaks are the unparalleled way to improve employee well-being.
A little break goes a long way…
Perhaps the coolest thing about all this break science is that even the shortest breaks are proven effective—just a few minutes of a resting or recharging activity can yield positive benefits. In fact, many experts say that just 5-7 minute breaks are enough.
A North Carolina State University study found that employees who took microbreaks were more able to maintain energy levels throughout the day. A Romanian study came to a similar conclusion, noting that workers were less fatigued and more energized when they took advantage of microbreaks.
This means that offering your employees even short breaks throughout the workday is enough to see improvements in well-being and performance.
How You Can Introduce Breaks as an Employee Wellness Program
Now that you see the value of breaks, it’s time to implement them. Here are 4 key ways to do this:
1. Make breaks part of the regular conversation.
Many employees feel guilty about taking breaks or worry they’ll face negative consequences if they get caught doing something other than work. Communicating that breaks are okay—and, more so, crucial to success—is one of the easiest ways to reduce historical stigmas around breaks.
Verbally encourage employees to take breaks, share ideas for how break time can be spent, and highlight the many positive benefits of breaks.
If breaks and other well-being measures aren’t included in your onboarding materials, incorporate them. Introducing healthy, supportive practices from the get-go can create a more positive onboarding experience for new employees, which leads to increased job satisfaction and engagement.
2. Educate your team about optimal break habits.
All breaks are not created equal. For example, the classic smoke break isn’t likely to yield the sort of benefits we’re looking for, and common workplace break activities like venting about a problem have been associated with more fatigue rather than less.
To ensure your team gets the most out of their breaks, educate them about the kinds of breaks that will make them feel rested and refreshed. The most restorative breaks are those that allow employees to completely detach from work for a few minutes.
Here are some examples of breaks that bring benefits in spades:
- Meditating to clear the mind and focus on relaxation
- Stretching to avoid the aches and pains often caused by sitting for long periods of time
- Taking on a fun, low-stakes challenge such as a crossword puzzle or trivia game
- Engaging in a few minutes of exercise to activate endorphins and reduce the negative effects of stress
- Unplugging while still being plugged in by watching videos or playing games
- Reading fiction to mentally disconnect and stimulate the imagination
- Taking a quick nap to improve cognitive function and decrease fatigue
And we’ve just got to mention that looking at baby animal photos and videos is also a proven stress-reliever that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
3. Offer regular opportunities for employees to take breaks.
All this advice is for naught if you aren’t giving your employees any time to take breaks.
Ask your leadership team to uphold breaks by incorporating periodic downtime into employee schedules or even scheduling a few set times each day for the whole team to recharge together.
And because employees often take their cues from leadership, ask your fellow leaders to model the behavior by taking some breaks themselves. Remember, employees at all levels of the organization can benefit from taking time to recharge.
4. Let break tech do the legwork for you.
With the rise of everything from meditation to telemedicine apps, wellness tech has made great strides in recent years. If you’re passionate about boosting well-being but short on time, you can choose a tech solution that will take care of the heavy lifting.
For example, Bright Breaks is a workplace well-being platform that offers Bright Breaks, which are hundreds of live 5-15 minute classes designed to help employees disconnect and recharge for a few minutes. Break opportunities range from yoga and fitness to meditation and breathwork to workshops on nutrition and gratitude.
Because the breaks are virtual and coordinated through iOS and Android apps, they’re accessible for even globally distributed teams. And when Bright Breaks is integrated with employee calendars, the Daily Break smart scheduling feature will automatically identify free time and invite employees to take a break each day.
This enables you to introduce an employee wellness program without a lot of additional time or strain. And tech provides the added bonus of a dashboard where you can see employee engagement metrics, making those all-important ROI discussions with your C suite that much easier.
It’s Time to Reinvent the Break and Boost Employee Well-Being
Breaks are powerful, proven, and easy to implement as a wellness program. So the only question left is…when are you going to introduce breaks to your team?
If you need a little help getting started, get in touch with the Bright Breaks team for expert advice on how you can introduce breaks within your organization. They’ll walk you through the immediate positive impacts of breaks on your employees and your bottom line.
P.S. Once you’re done reading this, go take a break. 😉