CORE HR

Employees take a break – five rules to follow

Between the total freedom of taking unlimited breaks for as long as the employee considers fair and the employer standing with a timer near the toilet doors, there are multiple other models.

Learn how much your company can get by letting your employees take a break when they need it.

The vision of the employee tirelessly working for the glory and income of the company is as tempting as unreal. There are dozens of breaks employees take every day – a cigarette break, lunch break, coffee break, social media break, or just idling in front of the computer screen.

In fact, the best-performing employees tend to take long breaks at their work. According to the ConnectSolutions data, employees delivering the best results on average work for 52 minutes to take a 17 minutes break. It sums up to nearly a quarter of their total working day – a truly long break time at work.

In other words – the most productive employee gets paid for two hours of not-working assuming the eight-hour workday.

Use, underuse, and abuse

There is an inherent challenge with the breaks – there is no universal break schedule to follow to keep being productive and while one can work like a cyborg for the entire day, the other employee may need to take a short break for every period of the work.

Also, regarding the nature of work and task to deliver, the break can be either substantial or taken at will. Or, sometimes (for example in a manufacturing plant or in a retail store) it is forced to stick to a particular schedule.

Considering that, the flexible break policy can be used, abused, or underused. And the perception of the “abuse” or “underuse” can be entirely subjective. And where anything is subjective, tensions can arise.

That’s why there is a great need for a set of rules to follow when establishing and enforcing the (unpaid or paid) break policy in the company.

5 tips to manage staff breaks

One would ask – what flexibility comes with a set of rules? Aren’t rules a killer of flexibility? In fact, it is a direct opposite – rules are a framework ensuring that the policy is working for a benefit of both the employee and the employer.

Make the rules clear

First and foremost, the rules need to be clear and available publicly. The break-taking rules can be displayed in a visible place, available in the company intranet, or sent via email to every new employee. Or all of these combined – because why not.

Also, it is crucial to make these rules interpretation-proof. The more possible interpretations are there, the less clear is the set of rules to follow and by that – the goal is not achieved. The employee needs both to know when the rules are protecting him or her or when are the rules abused.

Schedule as much as possible

Flexible is not the same as “unplanned”. When it comes to a little coffee break or a short idling near the computer, there is no need to schedule the time for a break. But when it comes to the 30-minute meal break or some longer breaks, it is usually possible to schedule them in advance.

A lunch break is a great example for yet another reason – usually, employees will go to eat something together. When scheduling the break in advance, multiple teams can synchronize and integrate.

The document breaks…or encourage the employees to do so

There is no point in delivering a break policy if there is no way to check if the employees are sticking to it. And the only way to do so is to check the employee break time.

One way to do so is to install a form of an automatic-check system – be that a QR code scanner near the entrance, a beacon system in the office, or basically anything else. But on the other hand, building a surveillance system can significantly decrease the team morale – who wants to work in the Orwellian vision of office?

So the other way is to encourage the employees to document breaks on their own. This way can bring more benefits than one would expect. With the ability to shape their own schedule, employees can either adapt their work to life events or build up their own scheme that works best. If the schedule sticks to the company’s policy, everything is alright.

Last but not least – giving the employee control is a clear signal that the time controlling is not about surveillance, but about gathering knowledge. The first model is based on fear, while the second is built upon mutual trust.

Focus on the outcome

In the end, the ultimate goal is employee performance. The belief that there is a direct connection between the time spent on a particular task and the outcome is a bit misleading – one can be faking a job for hours while the other one just delivers the result and goes on. Or go for a break.

At the end, which employee is considered a more valuable one? Or does it matter if the job is done?

Find the reason, give feedback, be fair

People take breaks for a myriad of reasons. Some do that due to health-related reasons, others just find it satisfying to have more free time by doing their stuff earlier. According to the so-called Parkinson’s law.

The Law, being in fact a justified observation, was delivered by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, who worked at the Colonial Office during the decline of a British Empire. With the shrinking number of colonies to administrate, the number of employees of the office rose – thus with the bureaucracy, the work expanded to fill all the time available.

Thus as well as the employee who works too little needs some feedback, so the one who is overworking oneself just due to Parkinson’s law.

Summary

Taking a break is essential when it comes to keeping productivity. Taking regular breaks helps to relax, reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and improves the general well-being of employees.

On the other hand, though, the culture of overworking can dominate the natural need to stop working. To avoid multiple traps, the company needs to follow rules listed above. Time tracking tools deliver a great and convenient way to reduce the tensions that usually come when the employee takes a break.

If you wish to share some remarks and thoughts on the matter, don’t hesitate to contact us now!

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