Your meeting started over two hours ago and you’ve consumed enough coffee to keep a small boat afloat. You’re imagining the quickest route to the bathroom and how you plan on beating the rest of your team to the exit door once the facilitator finally calls a break.
This thought has run through my mind during more than one meeting, and I’m pretty confident I’m not not alone. I hate getting up in the middle of a presentation and interrupting everyone while I make a mad dash to the ladies room, so please don’t put me in that place!
There are two types of facilitators: those who schedule breaks and those who do not schedule breaks. If you are the latter of these two then you’ll probably notice that when you do break you have people practically running out of the room.
If you are not taking breaks from work, or you’ve decided to “work through” the break, your team is still breaking, but in a really distracting, one-person-at-a-time get up and leave, type break. If you notice multiple attendees getting up and leaving or the look of pain on someone’s face, this is a “queue” that a break is definitely necessary.
Tip#8: Schedule Breaks:
If you’re wondering how often you should take breaks at work, make it a point to schedule a break every hour. I know this seems excessive, but if you keep the breaks short (7-10 minutes) and start back immediately these breaks can actually be more efficient than taking longer, more infrequent breaks. The key is to make sure your team knows the meeting will be starting back up promptly, whether or not everyone has returned.
Let’s be clear, breaks are not only for trips to the restroom. In today’s fast-paced, immediate-response society we are constantly checking social media, emails, voicemails, and texts. There are clients to respond to, doctor appointments to be confirmed, and social media to be updated. Just because you’re in a meeting doesn’t mean the rest of the world has shut down.
If you’re not giving your team time to “check-in” you’ll have a much higher chance of people sneaking out of your meeting or trying to answer email from under the table, which is not discreet and completely distracting to everyone.
Breaks are a must in order to keep participation at a higher level, and distractions to a minimum. We’ve all been to meetings where we’re asked to drop the phones in a basket at the door, and this is a valiant effort, but your team is now laser-focused on the basket and impatiently waiting for a break. Keeping the breaks frequent and short is key, and should appease even the “big gulp” coffee drinkers and technology junkies of the world.
Instead of the same old terminology on your agenda, try something more attention-getting or fun like “technology break” or “iPhone check-in”. This keeps the mood light, and an understanding between you and your team that yes, this is a meeting and participation is required, but you will be given personal time to check-in with the outside world at the appropriate time.