The English word “lawn” originated from the Norman (French) word “laund”, meaning an open, often grassy, space in a woodland clearing – a glade amongst trees. These spaces were prized as they created rare and welcome respite from the encroaching trees when Europe was mostly wooded. In much the same way, garden lawns came to play a crucial role in creating spaces for people/families to pause and spend time together. Not only can people enjoy the beauty of the garden beds and herbaceous borders, but also benefit from meaningful conversations and the context to build solid relationships. This is not only true of the home, however, as:
- Schools have play-grounds
- Conference centres have “chill” areas, usually either grassed organically or synthetically (it’s amazing to see how delegates quickly gravitate to these areas during tea or lunch breaks)
- Cities have parks and other recreational areas
There seems to be a basic human need that potentially can be met through “pause” areas – the need to debrief emotions and process thoughts. This need for assimilation – the amalgamation and modification of newly perceived information and experiences into existing cognitive structures – is often not taken into account by business leadership, both with the utilisation of existing facilities or designing new offices. Many buildings still hark back to the industrial age rather than facilitate an environment where a knowledge-worker can flourish. With the acceleration of available information, the knowledge-worker needs time to “pause” more than ever before. Pause times give opportunity for:
- Debriefing emotion and pressure – talking through issues with colleagues often brings a sense of reasonability and understanding to tough circumstances, difficult relationships and feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Innovation and new ideas – problem-solving in a group often leads to better solutions and new and creative ways of doing things.
- Care – giving and receiving support brings a sense of belonging to a business “family”.
- Mental assimilation – gathering one’s thoughts and working through business issues, trying to make sense of it all. This often results in decisions about a possible way ahead.
- Developing relationships – Gallup noted that having a “best friend” at work promotes the wellness and engagement of employees.
Some examples of pause areas could include:
- Apart from health-oriented snack areas, scooters to get to meetings more quickly, slides and ladders between floors, Google has standing desks to assist those with back problems and to encourage collaboration.
- Discovery Health Insurance has built an outdoor training track and green area on the roof of their head office building.
- Some companies that have limited space, let alone outdoor areas, install synthetic grass and shrubs to simulate pause areas.
The concrete jungles that represent the world’s great cities don’t necessarily lend themselves to quiet places to think. Those in business leadership, recognising the knowledge-worker revolution, need to be more creative in establishing environments conducive for thought processing, emotional assimilation and culture development. “Pause” areas seem to enhance productivity, creativity and innovation.