We’ve all been there. Your usually happy team start snapping at each other in a meeting. Your boss has gone beyond sending friendly reminders about that report and is now scheduling in a ‘meeting to discuss’. You seem to have more deadlines than usual and half the team are off sick. Your inbox explodes to 2,000+ after a two-day conference.

This ladies and gentlemen, is the point where you need to step away from your screen.
But more importantly, you need your team to do the same.

Strategic slacking” allows the mind to wander into a creative and non-judgemental space, a world away from high-pressure work environments where there are no expectations to deliver results or think a certain way. You need time to think about the big stuff, to refocus and make sure you’re on the right path, and stop getting caught up in the nitty gritty.

And while it’s important for YOU to do this, as a manager, it’s crucial that your team takes a break too. But getting them to actually take a break is another thing. So, we’ve put together some ideas to help motivate your team to start seeing some wood amongst those trees.

1. Make taking a break a priority.

6 steps to get your team away from their screens - John Howard walking

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard out walking.
Picture: Ray Strange

Someone (pretty sure it was an ever-enthusiastic personal trainer) once reminded me about John Howard’s morning ritual when he was Prime Minister. Every morning without fail he would do a rigorous walk outdoors. If the Prime Minister could find time to exercise, surely I could too, right? It’s very easy to say you have too much work to do. Or you’re in back to back meetings. Or you’re just not up to it today. But just remember JH’s baggy green and yellow tracksuit and make it happen. Think of it as just another meeting in your day – one that can’t be rescheduled.

Once you’ve prioritised it, you need to get your team to do the same. Convey to them the importance of taking a break, what it will mean for them physically, emotionally and mentally, and that you’re fully supportive of their screensaver getting a workout. Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. Making it a part of their daily routine will benefit everyone in the long run.

2. Provide some incentives.

This one is a fun one – you can be as creative as you like, and you can do it without spending a cent! (Although, if you have got a corporate wellness budget, I’d highly recommend you put some of it towards enticing your team with something tangible.) Some ideas can be rewarding the most active team member with an internal store voucher, kudos on the company’s social media page, or simply shouting them a (healthy!) Friday lunch.

3. Gamify it.

If you’ve heard the term gamification but still not sure what all the fuss is about, don’t worry. You’re probably not the only one. Gamification is simply applying gaming elements, like leaderboards, scoring points and competing against other people, to everyday scenarios. It’s gaining huge traction in the education industry, and unsurprisingly, the fitness industry has jumped on it like a PT doing their first five burpees. But arguably the industry in which gamification has really taken off is corporate wellness. In 2018 the gamification market in the corporate sector is expected to reach US$5.5 billion and recent surveys have shown that workers believe they would be more motivated and more productive if their environment was more game-like.

Now I’m not saying you need to go and develop a brand spanking new leaderboard platform. They already exist! **Insert shameless plug to our very own corporate wellness game – Run & Rule {your company}**.

But if you want to implement smaller gamified elements first, why not try creating a manual leaderboard for weekly KPIs? Or creating a treasure hunt of things around the office, or better yet, outside the office, to help get your team up and away from their computers. 

4. Start doing walking meetings.

A perfect segue from gamification is developing the habit of walking meetings. Think of the last meeting you had. Chances are there was coffee, and possibly even some tempting pastries. And let me guess, you sat down for the entire meeting? Yep, workplace etiquette has defined ‘meetings’ to follow a certain rigid structure, primarily the sedentary kind. Don’t get me wrong – some meetings need whiteboards, stickie notes and hunched shoulders to pore over in-depth reports. But what about that weekly catch up you have with Joe and Flo to chat about upcoming projects and ideas? Try having those notes-free meetings on the go – you’ll be amazed how many extra steps you can fit into your day.

5. Encourage them to get some fresh air.

Ever heard (or told someone) the expression Go outside and get some air? Think back to the scenario that led to this statement. It was likely a high-pressure environment where you (or someone else) needed to cool off. Well, studies are now suggesting that there’s real science behind the phrase and that a bit of outdoor exercise does wonders for the body, mind and soul. Encouraging your team to step outside for their break will benefit them on all fronts, which will in turn, make them happier, more level-headed, and ultimately more productive.

6. Lead by example.

Lastly, but probably most importantly, you need to lead by example. The old adage, practice what you preach is so appropriate, that I don’t really need to say anything else.

But I will.

No one will believe you, let alone follow you away from their desk, if they don’t see you getting up first and setting the example. If you truly want good health for your team and better productivity from them, you need to be championing the cause. After all, it’s not just about getting your employees away from the screen. YOU will benefit immensely from stepping away from the screen too.