Creative breaks in creative places

Allow yourself to be distracted... just at the right times in the right way!


So... If you’re reading this... Statistics would tell us you are likely to be surfing the net at about 3:30 in the afternoon, during work hours, as your mind has started to wonder, away from client work, and is dying to be distracted by absolutely anything in exception to the task actually in hand.

In this day and age we allow ourselves frequently to work long hours without regular breaks, all the while, telling ourselves we are too busy to even stop for a quick sarnie at lunch. Who are we kidding?! Who decided this was the best way to work?! Certainly not the most innovative companies that's for sure!

Over 65% of employees say that they would be happier if they could take more breaks. At MSL we are attempting to change our employee perceptions of taking creative breaks and reinforcing the need for creative places to escape to during our everyday routines. Some fun, some practical but all keeping creativity at the centre of each initiative.


Creative thursdays

During my first month after joining MSL, my housemate dragged me to an event where we preceded to draw complete strangers in a speed dating setup for two hours, with the help of a few ciders. After enjoying drawing again for the first time in years I realised how fun and exhilarating it may be to bring back to the office.

The following morning I cornered my design team and hosted a fifteen minute version of the session. Half of the team claimed to be too busy so the six members willing to give it a chance huddled in a small meeting room, armed with just a pen and a few sheets of A4 paper, to draw each other's portraits, in just two minutes. The team were instantly invigorated and went back to their desks laughing and in a much better frame of mind. 

From that point, needless to say, growing in popularity, we have run a creative session each week to reinvigorate our staff and help integration between the teams. Challenges change from week to week, run by whoever volunteers an idea: classic life drawing classes, illustrating music, pitching new film concepts, charity cake decorating and more hands on team building exercises like designing the best paper planes. 

"Creative Thursday's make me more creative. It's crazy how taking out some time from the day can make you think more clearly and more productive." Joe Sereni, Junior Designer.

A small distraction doesn't have to make your day unproductive, but can leave you more engaged to perform to your potential. Keeping these sessions short and sweet with a visual outcome has made them a roaring success! 


Creative Spaces

Sometimes taking breaks isn't just having the time to stop for a minute but having areas to escape to. Statistics show that we are now spending up to 11 hours at a screen. I have to admit, mine is usually closer to 14 hours if I get caught up with a good Netflix series ( currently loving 'Black Mirror' and the 'Get Down'! )

"Subhani to add quote about flexi hours, 3 at 3 and working from home."  Subhani, MSL HR

We are now working to make areas in the office more flexible to work in, so that we can enjoy a few precious moments away from our screens: From enjoying lunch in our new doodled area; to brainstorming on interactive boards surrounded by our favourite artwork; to stealing a meeting at our standing desk space; to discussing new ideas over a beer on our beautiful roof terrace here on the Publicis building. These creative spaces all help us to meet and discuss new ideas away in new ways that don't have to rely on our computers. 


Small distractions

On researching this article I found some short methods to help break up your day: going for walk round the block, flicking through magazines, sitting in silence with your eyes closed, even trying a new food spot at lunch. Most articles suggested even just a few minutes break regularly can improve performance. 

"To be honest, it felt really weird taking a moment to 'step away' as it's such a fast paced agency - but ultimately, I feel much better prepared for my afternoon. Thankyou."  PM after 15 mins of meditation.

Some suggest taking 5 minutes every half hour, Some say 10 mins every hour and my favourite is the 20-20-20 rule where every 20 mins you should break for at least 20 seconds at least 20 meters from your desk. I was left wondering exactly how far away the biscuit tin is or if talking to a mate about last nights antics counts?! Apparently so!  

I decided to do a little social experiment. For two weeks I sent out a daily brain teaser. Challenging your mind to a puzzle is shown to be more productive than say flicking through social media. Although our Instagram feed is always worth following! It quickly picked up and had the studio rushing to guess answers and promote chatting over the water cooler with competitive answers.

How many can you get right?


To sum up...

We think it is vital for any big company to try new ways to keep their employees engaged. We may not be quite as radical as introducing a four day week, or allowing every employee to work on a year long sabbatical abroad, but in our own way we are achieving small goals in gaining a more productive workforce. So... What break will you allow yourself today?! 


Hannah Springett
Senior designer and chief procrastinator at MSL. 

P.S. This article should have taken you five minutes to read. How's that for a creative break! Haha