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What do you do in your five minute mini-breaks?


I’m a lucky fella. I have a wonderful family, and a job that I enjoy, and being a teleworker I work at home most of the time. I sit in my office in front of the screen but that’s maybe where the downside comes into play, because teleworkers, working in isolated situations can find themselves engrossed in the work so much that they forget those little health and safety breaks from the screen.

Like I say, I’m a lucky guy with a wonderful family and they pop into my office to deliver cups of tea, coffee, (even a banana milkshake in yesterday’s sunshine) and things like mid-morning scramble on toast. My grandson JJ stops over frequently, and, as he’s now learning to walk, his favourite expedition is to my office where there are all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to investigate. My five minute breaks come less from planning than a caring family, but such breaks work for me, and I return to work after my few minutes are up with a fresh vigour and clearer mind.

Why do I tell you all this?

Well firstly because those five minute holidays are important for all of us from a health and safety point of view and from a work-practice point of view, and secondly because I’ve just read an article in the New York Times (web version – I live in the UK) which looks at how other people take their breaks.

Read the article to see mini-breaks US style, but here’s a couple of examples:

Tom Dilatush, chief executive of Previo, a San Diego technology company: “I save up particularly pleasant little tasks (like telling someone about a promotion) for when I need a break. Then I make a point of leaving my office to go do that task. The combination gets my mind off whatever I was concentrating on or it lets me concentrate on something pleasant as a break from chaos. It gives me a nice break, either way.”

William G. Christie, dean of the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University: “If I have five minutes to spare between meetings and need to clear my head, I fire up Microsoft Flight Simulator. I’ll typically fly a 737 or a 777, and it’s a challenge, because all I have at my disposal is a mouse. It wouldn’t look proper for the dean of a business school to have foot pedals and a force-feedback joystick in his office. A five-minute vacation will usually involve final approach into a major airport with a self-imposed malfunction, like the loss of an engine. Nothing focuses the mind more than trying to land a 777 on one engine on short notice. I always walk away feeling refreshed, and my bags never get lost.”

I was just left wondering though, how important are those mini-breaks? How much are they built into training activity? Am I the only person who experiences guilt trips for taking those breaks? And do TrainingZONE and HR Zone members take mini-breaks too, and if so, how?

Meanwhile, I’m just going to nip off to see whether my wife is really preparing those assignments for the new semester or whether she’s playing Tetris again!

One Response

  1. Mini breaks while presenting and training
    We live in an age of microwave achievement, everything has to be achieved within 60 seconds, and while I am waiting to achieve that I must complete at least 3 other tasks. So we all try to do more with the small amount of time available. This has had the overall effect of reducing attention span. As a trainer with many years experience, I have watched the attention span of groups fall over the last 10 years hugely. Mini breaks are now a fundamental part of any facilitation or training exercise. Often governed by the smokers, but quickly appreciated by the group as a whole. The mini break of 5-8 minutes when well managed keeps a group fresh and adds to the value of the training as the topic of conversation during the breaks usually relates to the course content, spurning questions and debate upon return. From the trainers perspective it gives me time to ‘re-group’ my thinking and direction. I highly recommend mini breaks about every 40 to 60 minutes.

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