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HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES TO TAKE A BREAK OUTSIDE--AND WHY THEY SHOULD.

September 21, 2017 | By Kaitlynn Pelio

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Let’s assume it’s a decent day outside--no downpours, blizzards, dust storms, or extreme smog alerts. You know, like most workdays. The weather may not be perfect (we like to save those days for the weekend) but it’s certainly nice enough to go outside.

So why are your employees still squinting at their screens at lunch, or sitting in the break room reading a magazine, or talking to their friends? Why aren’t they taking a real break, and taking it outdoors?

at laptop

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

There are so many reasons why getting away from our desks, and our screens, is good for your employees--and for all of us. For starters, because we provide on-site eye exams, we’re naturally drawn to activities that are good for our eyes. In the office, we’re concerned about Computer Vision Syndrome--which you can think of as a kind of carpal tunnel for your eyes.

According to WebMD, 50% to 90% of people who work at computer screens have CVS symptoms. Blurry vision, eyestrain, dry eyes, headaches, and neck/back strain are common symptoms--and you know your employees experience at least one of these symptoms--some rarely, some most of the time.

tired eye

Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers on Unsplash

The good news? There’s an easy way to alleviate CVS--it’s called the 20-20-20 rule. Take it from the American Optometric Association--take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

But we’re not just focused on eyes (pun intended.)

We, like you, care about the whole person. Here are some reasons why getting outside, and getting your staff outside, is a great idea. 20-20-20 is the least you can do.

urban walking

Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash

Even a short walk, say 30 minutes long, will:

  • Raise your heart rate
  • Help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Help to prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve your balance and coordination
  • lower your stress
  • Get you out from under artificial lighting and into nature (even if you work in a city, there’s plenty of natural light.)
  • Increase your sense of well-being
  • Tone your stomach muscles (whoa!)
  • Provide lots of fresh air--energizing, after hours of exposure to the HVAC system. (Mom always told us to go outside and play--and she was right.)
  • Give your eyes something to look at instead of digital screen images (helps with Computer Vision Syndrome, too.)

There are plenty of reasons people say they can’t take that break: they don’t have time, nobody else does it, they’re not sure (despite all your wellness messaging) that it’s truly acceptable.

Unfortunately, they may be onto something. According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, 53% of people who don’t participate in wellness programs (and going outside is a component of corporate wellness) say it’s because of the company culture--they aren’t truly convinced that it’s ok to leave their desks, and the building.

Are they right? Does your company pay lip service to exercise and breaks as a part of wellness, but still have managers who raise their eyebrows when people actually get up and do something besides work?

sneakers

Photo by Aleksandra Mazur on Unsplash

Take a look at your own behavior, too. Do you keep a pair of sneakers or hiking boots under your desk so you can take a lunchtime walk? If not, perhaps it’s time to start. And if you do, you’re in just the right position to change your company culture so that it welcomes wellness.

Be a role model. Let your colleagues and everyone you pass know that you’re taking a break. Invite them to go with you. Start a walking club that meets daily in the lobby. Ask people for their favorite walking or running routes.

Talk to managers in person (you might have to start with senior management, even the CEO) about how (pun again intended) small steps can make your employees happier, healthier, and more productive. Management support is the key to getting your employees on their feet and out of the building. It may take some time--after all, the rule of thumb on building new habits is 12 weeks, according to a study by the European Journal of Social Psychology.

autumn

Photo by Ewa Stepkowska on Unsplash

12 weeks. That’s a season, and autumn has just begun. What better time to get a move on?

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