What does a culture of ‘Pause’ look like in the workplace?

October 1, 2020
Danielle North

We view Pause as part of a wider culture change, not just an ad hoc wellbeing initiative.

A culture change that celebrates, champions and encourages practices that help promote more calm, creativity and authenticity. 

So what might this culture of ‘Pause’ look like day-to-day?

1. The word ‘Pause’ has meaning for employees

In a culture of ‘Pause’ this term has been well established within peoples’ minds. It’s the accessible, universal term used to communicate the importance of slowing down and going inwards during the working day. 

The word itself has created its own unique definition within the company’s DNA. When it’s used, everyone knows what it stands for and recognises the signal. It’s referenced during employee inductions and training courses. People get it. 

2. Leadership regularly reinforce its importance

A pause initiative is not just lip service or a tick in the box. You can see that the leaders and senior managers within a company value this for themselves as well as their teams. 

Not only do we see the leadership taking pauses for themselves - e.g. the walk at lunchtime, the hour in their diary for strategic thinking - they also share their experiences of meditation on the internal social channels and recall stories of how they powerfully paused at the weekend. 

These leaders are pause role models and inspire others everyday to become the same. 

3. Every meeting starts and ends with some reflection

When a meeting starts the leader initiates a pause. They ask everyone to check in with their own breath and reconnect to themselves and what they are trying to achieve at a higher level. As meetings end, everyone is asked to reflect on how they are feeling in their body. 

People within the organisation develop their own styles of running meetings with a pause embedded within them - but the philosophy stays the same - there is more space and capacity to check-in with one’s self. 

4. Leavism is eliminated

Leavisim can be broadly defined as not using annual leave for rest and relaxation. Dr Ian Hesketh coined the term in 2013 to describe the situation of people using their annual leave when they were just too unwell to work. It’s now expanded to include employees taking work home to ‘catch up’ or working whilst on holiday. Essentially it devalues the principle of taking leave as a full rest and breaks from work activity. 

In a culture of pause, leavism is eliminated, because it’s crystal clear from all messaging that there is undeniable benefit on all sides to taking restful breaks and honouring time out. In fact, it’s viewed as an important part of overall company performance - so why wouldn’t people do it properly?

5. Line Managers discuss pausing in reviews and check-ins

Like ensuring employees take their leave appropriately, line managers are a positive influence for pause, using weekly one-to-ones with their reports to ensure the person is operating in a healthy way. For example if the employee is working remotely, are they taking time to get out into nature everyday? Do they see the sky before a screen? Does their work need re-prioritising so that there is space to pause that will help them think strategically and innovatively within their role?

The line manager has this awareness of the power of the pause and it’s embedded into every discussion. 

6. New ideas for pausing and fresh, relevant initiatives come from the employees (bottom-up)

Where an organisation may have initiated a culture of pause and kicked things off, after a while it’s embraced by employees at all levels. 

Like with the concept of wellbeing champions, natural ‘pause champions’ emerge. They speak out and share their experiences of trying new things - a new habit they developed to pause in between meetings or a recently discovered meditation tool.  They champion new initiatives that may help their peers or organise events. 

In this sense, new innovative pause practices and culture enhancement come from the bottom up - not just the top down. It keeps things fresh, relevant and engaging. 

7. Employees tell their friends and family what it’s like to work there. An organisation’s pause culture sparks curiosity and a ripple effect outside of itself. 

As a culture of pause permeates through an organisation, it’s ripple effect starts to take hold. Employees start to tell their family about how much pausing is valued and honoured. Curious friends ask more questions and wonder what it’s like to work somewhere that seems to contrast from the cultural opposite that is pushing them to the edge of burnout. 

Without realising, the organisation starts to attract talent based on the strength of their pause culture. And their employees not only become champions within their teams, but champions within their communities and network of relationships too. 

The pause culture keeps on giving. Performance increases, engagement is high and there is even a positive impact on wider society. 

This is the vision we hold for the future. #presspause.

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