The Benefits of Downtime & Team Building

It’s the current trend to hate on screen time, saying that screens are killing people’s ability to be social & creative, and increases anxiety and depression. More studies are coming out that propose that screens aren’t the issue– it is a plain lack of time to zone out, be bored, and let your brain have a break & refresh. Screen time, news events, and FOMO all contribute in both obvious and subtle ways.

The tech industry has had a similar model for a few years. We’ve known about the obvious effects of burnout. How many times have you given or received the advice of:

“It’s 7pm, you’re not going to solve this tonight. Get a good night’s rest and you’ll tackle it with a fresh brain in the morning.”

There’s something magical about letting your mind wander: daydreaming, random contemplation, taking in your surroundings and not thinking about solving the problem. How many times have you had an aha moment in the shower, walking the dog, painting, during the commute, or while watching your favorite show? Your brain figures it out while you’re not.

How can you as a leader apply that to your team?

  • Set up your resourcing expectations so your team doesn’t have 100% of their day accounted for
  • Encourage team members to step away from their desks for a walk around the floor / building / block to clear their heads.
  • Encourage team members to get in some “water cooler” time for morning/afternoon coffee, tea, or to fill their water bottle. This is micro team building.
  • Arrange some sort of full team outings. This is large-scale team building. What does your budget allow for? Lunch down the street, a retreat, a conference, catered food in the office, other. Pick something that will help you show the team that the culture of the office is a priority.
  • Set up some team building time block (I call it Friday Team Time). This is medium-sized team building.

Team Time?

A happy team that can laugh together will work better together. Set up a recurring weekly or bi-weekly opt-in (if you want to and if you have time) team time block. Mid week, end of week, it doesn’t matter.

Utilize card games, board games, or party computer games. I lean towards the last option, as you can generally initiate the game on a laptop (connect it to a TV or projector), and then let your team use their phones or laptops as controllers– this means no one gets left out

If you can, set up a small snacks and beverage budget. If not, another option is to nominate a team member to be the snack monarch. Have them buy some snacks and beverages and have the other team members pay them back by using a mobile/micro payment/money transfer service like or Venmo. $2 for a bowl of snacks. $2 for a beverage.