Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

Nineteen Techniques to Gather Information: #15 Working Break

July 20, 2014

“Sometimes my participants use meeting time to discuss private, one-on-one issues that don’t include the rest of the group. How can I prevent this from happening?”

#15 Working Break

What is Working Break?

Working Break is a technique that provides your meeting group with a designated period of time for addressing private, one-on-one issues during the meeting without wasting the time of the other participants. This is a short, informal time specifically set aside in the meeting to take care of private and/or small group business. It also allows for stretching and refreshing beverages.

The reality is that when colleagues get together, they tend to use the opportunity to catch up on personal pieces of business not related to the agenda at hand. Unfortunately, it is often times more convenient and faster for them to take care of this business during your meeting rather than somewhere else. And this behavior occurs even if it means using other people’s time unwisely.

When people know that there is time set aside for their private business, they tend to stay more focused on the tasks at hand. The Working Break technique provides that time.

When to Use Working Break

  • When meeting participants come from long distances and are not able to see each other on a regular basis
  • When several group members have small pieces of one-on-one business with each other
  • When your meetings are getting side tracked by people sharing information that is not pertinent to the entire group

How to Use Working Break

1. When appropriate, create a specific time during your meetings (perhaps 10-15 minutes) that allows individual participants or small groups to take care of their private business not related to the agenda of your meeting. This time can be used as a regular break for those not needing to use if for working purposes.

2. Post groundrules, as illustrated below.


NOTE: Until your group is very familiar with Working Break, bring a pre‑prepared Working Break ground rules chart with you to all your meetings.

In Summary:

Working Break is a technique that provides a designated time period during your meetings for participants to take care of their private business with each other without wasting the time of other group members.

1. When appropriate, provide a short period time specifically designed to allow your participants to deal with private, individual or small group business.

2. Post Working Break ground rules.

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