While working in Paris, I noticed that my European coworkers took breaks fairly often. Almost every hour and a half, several people would take an espresso or “fresh air” break (the latter sadly doesn’t mean taking a stroll through the neighbourhood). Although coffee and “fresh air” breaks in North America are common, the fact that people would take their breaks simultaneously astounded me. In North America, most people would take their breaks alone or maybe with one or two other coworkers. In France, nearly half the office would be gone because they were taking a break. As a foreigner, this custom can seem lazy and unproductive. Once I adapted to the new culture, I learned its value.
Working in a creative field, you can easily become mentally fatigued. Since I was working in content marketing, thinking of ideas for articles or social media posts became more difficult with time. You want to create something new, but you can’t help but get that “been there, done that” feeling.
The simplest way to refresh your brain is to take a break. However, the Europeans take it one step further with the collective break. Collective breaks allow for informal idea sharing with peers. While waiting for the machine to make the espresso, the first thing that usually comes out of someone’s mouth is, “So, what are you working on?” This is the time to grieve about your writer’s block. Unless you have awful coworkers, they usually offer some great ideas or (at the very least) words of encouragement that will help you figure out what you need to do. If you’re not having any trouble, then it’s your turn to share ideas or act as a cheerleader.
Since espressos are tiny and meant to be enjoyed immediately (as opposed to being the X-Large sugar-water that North Americans sip throughout the day), Europeans naturally take more breaks. So, the next time you feel mentally fatigued, take a break with friends! Don’t think of it as a social gathering but as an opportunity to innovate with coworkers.