At Fundable, if we're so focused on output and productivity, why is that we take so many breaks and seem to be playing games all the time? It's because we believe that in order to be productive, you have to be well-paced throughout every day.
One way we're tackling that challenge is to create a daily "recess" every day for 30 – 45 minutes. Think of it like a second lunch break every day.
If you look at the time slots of a typical 9 – 6 work day, you work for 3 hours in the morning, take a lunch break for an hour, and then work for 5 hours in the afternoon. By default, you've got a bit of an unbalanced day.
On top of that, your energy tends to be a bit drained in the second part of the day when you need a break the most.
We tend to work well past 6 on most days so the imbalance is even more lopsided. To account for this imbalance, we've developed a second break in the day where the whole company just gets up and leaves for a while.
We Take Lame Breaks Otherwise
By default our minds need a break throughout the day, so we tend to take them without realizing it. We're sitting at our desks just goofing around on Facebook, YouTube or MySpace (we go retro). It's neither productive nor refreshing in a meaningful way.
We're looking for breaks that actually allow us to disconnect for a while, recharge, and come back to our desk with a fresh mind. That usually involves some form of physical activity, but at the very least, it requires getting away from our desk for a while.
Probably the most important thing about our recess is that it's planned at 3:15. It may not sound that important, but it's critical for two reasons.
First, if everyone in the company is getting up from their desks at the same time, no one feels bad about it. It's exactly the way people view lunch. No one feels bad about eating mid-day for an hour because everyone does it.
The second is that it gives you a way to mentally plan for a stop. Without having a scheduled stop (like lunch) it's too easy to just motor through until the end of the day. Unlike lunch, where a key signal is that you're hungry, a recess break really needs to be deliberately triggered.
What we do with our Break
We're in an unusual position at Fundable in that we happen to have an office that is tucked away in a wooded ravine. So we've got plenty of room to explore outside. Even if we didn't, just the exercise of being anywhere but in front of our computers is helpful.
Personally I love to play sports, so for me it's a quick game of street hockey or volleyball. A lot of our team members enjoy taking walks or going for a more active run through some of the trails. Some just sit outside and read.
We don't want to oversell it – we're not exactly a commercial for Clif bar (none of us are in that good of shape). But we look for a heavy contrast to staring at a laptop screen all day and we're serious about making that happen.
Is it Effective?
Hell yes. In the same way that going to lunch gives you a necessary social and mental break you can look forward to, Recess absolutely recharges us. What we lose in 30 – 45 minutes is more than made up for in the last part of our day when we'd otherwise be dragging.
And more importantly – we're just happier. When we go home at the end of the day, our work lives involve more than just what we typed into our laptops. That's a big deal for us.