top of page

Take a Brain Break

In education, a term “brain break” is often used to allow students to pause from learning and reset their minds. Such breaks have been shown to reduce the stress and anxiety around education. Students typically come back refocused with more insights than before the break. Have you ever thought what would happen if brain breaks were incorporated into our work days?

The impact to the construction industry could mean increased safety, improved planning and designs, more thoughtful communication, and ultimately a better run company.

Brain Break Study

The architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch pondered this question when more than $1 billion in projects at Yale New Haven Health’s (YNHH) Saint Raphael Campus stopped in March 2020 because of the pandemic. After the “brain break,” YNHH asked Shepley Bulfinch to create an actual study to discuss and document how lessons learned during the pandemic could change the design of three projects for the better. You can find the pandemic-related design results for a neuro-focused bed tower, an Emergency Department expansion and renovation, and a Heart and Vascular Center and Radiology and Biomedical Imaging expansion and renovation here.

The firm discovered this forced brain break had value. Moving forward, all firm projects are expected to have some sort of break. The firm wrote: “Our pandemic study succeeded due to the commitment from each member of the project team to build a stronger project. It taught us the value of taking a pause to reflect on our work to ensure that the projects we deliver for our clients are thoroughly vetted and optimized for the patients and staff that they serve. Our design team reached these recommendations, among others, through collaboration with the client, our consultants and subject-matter experts. Approaching design for the unknown is no different than how we have been approaching the pandemic: working together to provide quality and safe care.”

Change Your Routine

The issue with not taking breaks is mistakes can be made and frustrations can build. As an employer, allow breaks for your employees during the day and encourage them to take additional moments if needed. As an employee, prevent damage to projects and yourself, mentally and physically, by saying, “I need a break.”

Breaks can last for a few to several minutes depending on the situation. Ideas include:

· Go for a walk, even around the jobsite or your office parking lot

· Meditate

· Read a book or magazine, not an electronic device

· Listen to music or a podcast

· Take a nap

· Have a healthy snack

· Stretch your body

· Reorganize your desk or clean up your work van

Many of us have the mentality that if we keep working until the work is done, the day will be better. The truth is errors occur during days like that, and some errors can be detrimental to the success of a project.

Shepley Bulfinch was forced into a long brain break because of a pandemic that greatly impacted its health-care clients. While we won’t be getting months off, perhaps we all could use a nudge toward short brain breaks to reset our thought process and refill our energy supply.



bottom of page