Creative breaks in creative places

Creative breaks in creative places

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

If you’re reading this... Statistics would tell us you are likely to be surfing the web at about 3:30pm, during work hours, as your mind has started to wonder. It’s dying to be distracted by absolutely anything other than the task in hand.

In this day and age, we allow ourselves 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!

More than 65% of employees say that they would be happier if they could take more breaks. At MSLGROUP, 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 at MSLGROUP, my housemate dragged me to an event where we drew 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 into the office.

The following morning I cornered the design team and hosted a 15-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 more positive frame of mind.

From that point, due to the popularity, we’ve run a creative session each week to reinvigorate our staff and encourage integration between different teams. The creative challenges change every 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 Thursdays make me more creative. It’s crazy how taking out some time from the day can make you think more clearly and be 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! We plan to continue these sessions this year with added enthusiasm. Stay tuned for sessions like learning to juggle, sushi making and releasing a little inner tension by testing who can shout the loudest!

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 a day at a screen. I have to admit, mine is usually closer to 14 hours if I get caught up with a good Netflix series when I get home (currently loving ‘The Crown’ and ‘The Get Down’).


We encourage staff to take 3 afternoons during the summer months where they finish at 3pm, so they have time to get away from a screen and enjoy the good weather. In other situations, we also work with colleagues to offer flexible working hours or opportunities to work from home or a library, café, etc. It’s important to be flexible and encourage free time, as it helps to give our employees the energy, creativity and focus that drives success and work satisfaction.

Subhani Rawat, Head of People, MSLGROUP

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, such as; enjoying lunch in our new doodled area, brainstorming on interactive boards surrounded by our favourite artwork, stealing a meeting at our standing desk space and discussing new ideas over a beer on our beautiful roof terrace at Publicis HQ. These creative spaces help us to meet together and discuss new ideas away in new ways that don’t have to rely on our computers.

Small distractions

While researching for this article, I found some short methods to help break up your day: going for walk around the block, flicking through magazines, sitting in silence with your eyes closed, and trying a new food spot at lunch. Most articles suggested that even just a few minutes break 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. Thank you.

Project Manager (after 15 mins of meditation)

Some suggest taking five minutes every half an hour, some say 10 mins every hour and my personal favourite is the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 mins you should break for at least 20 seconds, at least 20 metres from your desk. I was left wondering exactly how far away the biscuit tin is or if talking to a mate about last night’s 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 is always worth a peek). It quickly picked up and we had the studio rushing to guess answers and promote chatting over the water cooler with competitive answers. Have a guess at the teaser below:

Put a coin into an empty bottle and insert a cork into the neck. How can you remove the coin without removing the cork or breaking the bottle?

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, but in our own way we are achieving small goals in gaining a more productive workforce. So... What break will you allow yourself today?!

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

Teaser answer: Push the cork in and shake the coin out



Claire Hutchings

Head of Marketing

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