10 minute virtual pause space with breakaway rooms

An alternative approach for online sessions.

Thank you for stepping forward to run this virtual 10-min Pause Space with virtual breakaway rooms.

This guidance has been designed for anyone to use in a virtual setting, to respect the challenges on time and space and limitations on face-to-face interaction; thank you for joining many others who are creating these essential ‘pop up’ spaces for their teams and colleagues. Please note the virtual version will take a bit longer to prepare for and run, so we recommend booking a 30-minute virtual slot in your diaries.

We know that the pressure on individuals and teams has the potential to mount, so finding space to re-set, re-charge and re-commit will be crucial in encouraging people to leave the pressures of work behind, as they re-connect with family and friends at the end of a shift. We know that the pressures are not just felt by clinical or ‘frontline’ staff and we encourage you to offer this to others too.

This virtual guide is for people who are confident with using virtual platforms with breakout rooms. If you’re not, please check out virtual guide for ‘easy-to-run’ virtual 10-min Pause Space instead.

When you run a virtual Pause Space make sure you have the virtual 10-minute Pause Space script (below) in front of you. It can also be found in the Notes area and you can use it offline if you have installed people.nhs.uk on your mobile desktop.

The script is the structure that keeps the ‘10 minutes’ running to time and feeling safe. We recommend that these spaces are run in work time and people shouldn’t have to stay late to join a 10-minute Pause Space. Some people use these at the start of their shift/workday, and others to check out just before the shift/workday ends. Remember too that they are optional. Encourage people to join but don’t force them or make them feel bad if they don’t want to. The person running the session joins in the pairs work if there is an odd number of people. If using virtual breakaway rooms, it is recommended to have a second, technologically minded person helping (see roles).

Try running them with small groups of 4 or 5 people to start with, with a maximum number of 8 people for this virtual version, when you become more confident.


10-minute Pause Space has been designed for everyone to benefit from. Please think about who might not normally be invited into support spaces and ensure that no one in your team is left out. Please welcome all that attend, even/especially those that are running late. Mixed groups are fine and are great in fact. This is a human space; it doesn’t matter what your role is called. Remember that some individuals may struggle with virtual communication for many different reasons, please pay attention to being as inclusive as possible, and make reasonable adjustments in advance where a staff member has asked for help. The Workforce Disability Equality Standard team england.wdes@nhs.net may be able to offer advice on this, or perhaps your local network for diversely abled individuals.


When people stop and take a moment in a busy and pressured environment, it is not uncommon for some to release feelings or shed the odd tear. This is normal. Having tissues to hand for comfort is lovely, but not to encourage anyone to stop their tears.


Try and find a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of busy diaries if possible. Face-to-face 10-minute Pause Space has been designed to be used in any setting, so for this virtual version, just do your best with whatever platform you can use, and whatever time you can carve out for your team/colleagues. Be mindful that virtual working brings its own challenges and acknowledge that providing support spaces for people doesn’t need perfection to add value.

Infection Control

Please observe agreed infection-control advice and do not invite staff into zones of higher infection risk, especially if it is not their normal working environment. If in doubt, keep to the ‘two-metre distance apart from everyone’ policy, where this is appropriate and possible. In running a virtual 10-min Pause Space, be mindful that you respect any current social distancing advice; don’t increase any risk by asking people to attend a particular site to take part. People should be allowed to join from wherever they are.

Face-to-face use

Ideally, 10-minute Pause Spaces are run face to face, but they can be run virtually too. When social distancing restrictions are lifted, try running a 10-min Pause Space face to face as well, and see how it works.

Technical advice for breakaway room platforms:

Please use platforms that you feel confident with, minded some organisations endorse named platforms for security reasons. Ensure you know the privacy settings of your chosen platform, and of course that you or a technical buddy feel confident in operating the available functionality. If you are not confident that you can use a platform with breakaway spaces, please remember that there is an easy-to-run virtual 10-min Pause Space available here

Roles – you are advised to have a facilitator and technical buddy/host to use the breakaway ‘rooms’ option. One person to manage the ‘people’ side of things and one to manage the technology. The person acting as technical host sets up the meeting, welcomes people as they join, then manages the breakout room facility. The facilitator manages the rest of the session using the available script, and steps in to join a pair if numbers are uneven. Both roles carefully manage the time between them.

Ensure that the facilitator and host can see a copy of the guide/script as well as the screen of participants faces.

Participants will need to manage their own time and follow instructions for part of the 10-min Pause Space, so preparing people for this can be helpful.

Invitation ideas

How you invite people to join a virtual 10-min Pause Space is up to you. You know your people best. We have included a draft invitation, below, which you may wish to use and tailor to your team:

‘Dear [XXX]

I/we would like to invite you to join a small group virtual 10-min Pause Space using [XXX] platform. In these challenging times, we know that the pressure on individuals and teams has the potential to mount, so finding space to re-set, re-charge and re-commit will be crucial in encouraging us to leave the pressures of work behind, as we re-connect with family and friends at the end of a shift/working day.

Joining is optional, I/we simply ask that you let me/us know in advance so that I/we know who to expect. We will follow the design of the 10-min Pause Space when we meet. 10-min Pause Space was designed to be run ‘face to face’. It has been adapted for virtual use, and we know we need slightly longer to run it like this. Please allow 30 minutes in your diary if you plan to attend, as we ask that people stay until the end, if they want to join in. This is to ensure that the practice is not interrupted for others, by people leaving early.

This 10-min Pause Space can be found online at https://people.nhs.uk/notes/ should you want to get a sense of the session in advance. I/we have also invited [TELL YOUR TEAM WHO ELSE IS INVITED]

All you need to bring is something to jot down a couple of instructions during the session, in case the technology proves challenging, and something to use as a timer (a mobile phone timer, for example).

I look forward to hearing back from you and hope that you can join.

If you’d like to join, but anything is making that tricky for you, please do let me know in case I/we can help.

Best wishes,


Let’s look at each section of the pause space. Imagine using it in your team or practice it out loud before moving on to the next section.

This section will walk through the process step by step. Take time to imagine yourself running each step of the virtual 10-minute Pause Space before moving on.

Please also consider sharing your experience of putting it into practice in the discussion areas.

Please stick to the words and the questions, which have been carefully crafted. Remember to have a timer to hand and that for 10-20 minutes you are in charge of the time.

Start here

This should take about 1 minute

Welcome. My name is [YOUR NAME], thank you for taking time to be here amidst all of the demands on you. We have 10-20 minutes together. Some people might join late, so let’s quietly welcome them in too. If anyone accidently drops out and re-joins, we will look out for you, so know that you are welcome back. We all have technical issues from time to time, and I am just really pleased that you’re joining today in whatever way you can. The technical host for today is [introduce the technical person.]

(We imagine that you will most likely be using a platform where your faces will appear on the screen. This may be all at the same time, or as people speak. It is important to acknowledge everyone that has joined by name, so that no one feels left out. Some people may only be able to join by voice, so please ensure that they feel welcome too).

When we run this 10-min Pause Space face to face we all sit together in a circle. Let’s just take a moment now to imagine that we are doing that.


We are going to be using the three teachable habits that lie at the heart of “Compassion Circle” practice:

  • Listening with a Quiet Mind
  • Asking Questions that Matter
  • Appreciating from the Heart


This should take about 1 minute

Before we start, let’s just take a moment to be still.


Notice the contact of your feet on the floor, or your body against whatever you are sitting on.

Congratulate yourself for being here.


Notice that in this moment, you are okay, and you’re not alone.


This time together helps us to connect with each other and reminds us to care for ourselves as well as everyone else. We are going to connect as a group and also in pairs using virtual breakaway rooms. Please respect the privacy of what is shared with you during our time together, trusting that others will respect your privacy too.

(Remind people that this is private space and that you are not recording the session)

Please signal your agreement to playing your part in this confidentiality by raising your hand, saying yes, or adding yes to the chat box if we can’t see you. If you don’t feel able to commit to that today, for whatever reason, please just quietly drop out of the Pause Space. Thank you.


I am going to keep us both to time and to the structure during this Pause Space – quite strictly in fact! – it’s this structure that stops us running over and importantly keeps the space safe.

Optional Warm Up Exercise (or jump to Listening activity)

This optional activity should take about 5 minutes

(If you want to ease more slowly into virtual 10-min Pause Space, and you have an extra time to spare, try one of these ‘gratitude’ rounds).

Let’s start by warming up and stepping into an appreciative mind space. I invite each of you to take a quiet moment to think of something that you feel grateful for or that is going well for you in your life right now. It might feel tricky to imagine that now, so remember it can be anything at all, however small.


When I say your name, please share something in just a few words each. It’s also okay to pass.

Let’s start, ‘NAME, something that you feel grateful for or is going well for you…’

(Use everyone’s first name, one at a time, to invite them to speak – periodically remind people of the prompt and gently remind people to use just a couple of words each – you might explain it as a ‘one breath answer’. Check back with anyone that passed: ‘did you want to say anything, NAME?’ – include yourself as facilitator)

If you are short on time or have a large group:

Let’s start by warming up and stepping into an appreciative mind space. I invite each of you to take a quiet moment to think of something that you feel grateful for or that is going well for you in your life right now. It might feel tricky to imagine that now, so remember it can be anything at all, however small. You won’t be sharing it with the group this time. Just listen to your own thoughts and you can jot them down, if it helps.

Say, so, ‘something that you feel grateful for or is going well for you…’


Listening pairs

These explanation activities should take about 3 minutes

Let’s start.

The technical host is soon going to put you/us into random pairs. We have odd numbers of people today, so I am going to join you in a pair OR we have even numbers of people today, so I won’t be joining you in your pairs.

When you arrive in your pairs room, the time is very structured, and it is important to follow the instructions. When you arrive in your room, if you don’t know the person, just wave and quickly swap first names. BUT, before we do this, I’m going to explain what will happen.

We are going to take turns to think out loud uninterrupted, and then take a turn listening with a quiet mind and an open heart. You’ll each get a turn, and you’ll need to time 2 minutes each for that bit.

(Remember to join in if there are odd numbers).

You will decide who is listening first and who is thinking out loud first.

It is very important that you only have 2 minutes each, so each person gets the same amount of time to think out loud, and the same amount of time to listen.

As I explain the next steps, please note down the questions that you will ask each other. Grab a piece of paper and pen, or perhaps type them into your mobile device. We are also going to try and add them to the chat box. You might want to ‘copy’ these ready to ‘paste’ into your pairs room chat box, when you arrive there.


Notes/Instructions for pairs in rooms, below:

You have 7 minutes together in your pairs room. Please respect yourselves, each other and the process, and be strict with timing.

1. Say hello, swap names, and decide who will listen first and who will think out loud first. Then be ready to start timing 2 minutes each to think out loud/listen with a quiet mind, without interrupting.

2. First listener gets ready to time 2 minutes, then asks: ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’ (If your thinker runs out of things to say, don’t worry, simply ask ‘and what else?’ and remember you’ll swap after 2 minutes)

3. Second listener gets ready to time 2 minutes, then asks: ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’ (If your thinker runs out of things to say, don’t worry, simply ask ‘and what else?’ and remember to stop after 2 minutes)

4. The say: ‘One thing I appreciate about you is….’ and then swap.

(We will invite you back to the main group after 7 minutes is up)

When in your pairs, if you are listening first, use the person’s name to ask the question ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’ if your partner seems to run out of things to say in their 2 minutes, don’t worry, simply say ‘and what else?’

Remember your role is to listen, not to interrupt, and not to plan what you might say when it’s your turn! Trust the process.

So, a reminder (SPEAK SLOWLY TO ALLOW FOR NOTETAKING): ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’

And then you swap over, so if you have had a turn thinking out loud, it’s now your turn to listen to your partner.

A reminder, use the person’s name to ask the question ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’ if your person runs out of things to say, don’t worry, simply ask (SPEAK SLOWLY TO ALLOW FOR NOTETAKING) ‘and what else?’

Please both stick to the exact questions, the timings, and remember to use each other’s names.


When you’ve done your pairs questions, and whilst still in your pairs, you will then take a moment to appreciate each other. We don’t always find it easy to voice our appreciations of others or to be appreciated, but let’s try. It might be something you already appreciate about that person if you know them, or something in what they said that you appreciated.

For no more than a minute in total, one person will start by saying (SPEAK SLOWLY TO ALLOW FOR NOTETAKING) ‘One thing I appreciate about you is….’ and then swap after 30 seconds’

We don’t always create the chances to think out loud with a partner or to listen without thinking or interrupting. And appreciating and being appreciated takes practice, so thank you.

Okay. Got that? To summarise, 2 minutes each of listening and thinking out loud, and then a quick appreciation of each other. We’ll invite you back into the group at that point. Timers at the ready. You have 7 minutes together.

Off you go.


Check out


This activity should take about 2-3 minutes

I’d like to invite you back into the group now for our final couple of minutes together.

(Allow a moment for people to return back to the group. Encourage everyone to check everyone is back).

Before we start again as a group, let’s just take a moment to be still, and imagine that we are back in that circle together.


Let’s check out of our time together today, remembering that we are all human and that you and your well-being matters. We are going to go around the ‘circle’ inviting you to take a moment to focus on your intention as you leave this space. Remember just share whatever you feel happy to, and it’s okay to pass.

So, to our final invitation, and to hear from everyone, please just use a couple of words in your reply to, ‘To be wise, kind and compassionate towards myself I will…’ and anyone can start

(remember then go around to everyone and check back with anyone that passed, including yourself when it gets to you).

Thank you everyone, that’s the end of the virtual 10-min Pause Space. I’ve really appreciated your commitment, honesty and courage.

(add anything else you’ve particularly appreciated).

Do share this practice with others, and on social media if you found it helpful; use the tag #10minPauseSpace

To anyone that has appreciated this time and wants to find out what other support is available, please take a look at the growing number of offers on people.nhs.uk.

10-min Pause Space has been developed by Andy Bradley, his long-time trusted colleagues and Laura Simms. Laura, a nurse by profession, has worked in healthcare for 32 years and hopes this version is accessible and helpful to all compassionate and inclusive leaders, whatever their role.

This offer is not ‘validated’ in any formal way but rather distilled from other practices and widespread experience from clinicians and colleagues. We encourage you to try it and see for yourself. It is approved for widespread use in the NHS.

Andy Bradley (recognised in 2012 by Nesta and The Observer as one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals), has been developing and sharing Compassion Circles for over 10 years. Compassion Circles have been adapted for use in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board where over 1000 healthcare staff have participated in rounds over the last 5 years. The Welsh Government are now sponsoring the roll-out of Compassion Circles which are known in Wales as ‘Taking Care Giving Care Rounds’. Evaluation indicates that the experience is highly valued. Compassion Circles have also become an integral part of the Compassionate Mental Health gatherings offered as a space for transformation and dialogue in Wales.