“I’d love to bring you in to do a full-in training on how to lead better virtual meetings, but I think that’s down the road. I think they need an appetizer first.”

This was a Chief of Staff for a team of high-level managers. We were on a call, chatting about how I could help. Everyone was getting pretty burned out from the pandemic, he said.

“They’ve all been working so hard—they could really use a mental health break. But I also want to show them that virtual meetings have the potential for so much more than what they’ve been doing. What do you suggest?”

“Hmmm…” I said. “How about a virtual recess?”

His eyes got big. He perked up in his chair. “Virtual recess? That sounds perfect!”

What is a Virtual Recess?

The great thing about a virtual recess, is it can serve multiple purposes, like this one I designed and facilitated recently for a Silicon Valley behemoth.

Just like recess back in school, a virtual recess is an energetic recharge, refresh, and reset.

We can think and engage more clearly after taking a recess — several studies demonstrated that recess made children more attentive and productive in the classroom, and recess is not just for kids.

Sadly, though, adults rarely take recess.

The closest thing to recess I’ve had in recent memory is going to a meal or going on a chat break at an in-person conference or training.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself: your mind takes a break from the formal learning of the conference or class, but the learning doesn’t stop. Instead, you’re simply following your curiosity to learn about and share with fellow attendees, discuss topics from the conference or course, float ideas, reflect, ask questions.

(And while all that is going on in the foreground, your brain is quietly connecting dots in the background. This is one of the reasons breaks are so important: we need time away from whatever problems we’re solving, to let our unconscious mind do the work!)

Even the most thoughtfully designed virtual conference doesn’t work the same way. We might have plenty of bio breaks, snack and coffee breaks (where we might also be scrolling through social media or checking email), you might take breaks to check email, but the kind of relaxed breaks where we share confidences — or literally just get a brain break in the company of others — rarely happen.

With burnout being such a prevalent, ongoing challenge, I say it’s time to change our approach. Let’s reclaim recess!

Virtual recess, like the session I designed for the managers at the Silicon Valley behemoth, is a low time-commitment activity that can pay big dividends.

The managers who attended not only had a great time and got their minds off work for a half-hour, but they left with a whole bunch of ideas for how to improve their virtual meetings, too.

“Wow!” said one, “I’m going to use that with my team on Monday!” referring to an activity I did with them. “I had no idea virtual meetings could be so fun!”


Interested to learn more? Message me to chat about how I can use my signature system to help your employees infuse connection, joy and delight into virtual meetings, trainings and events at your workplace.

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