Breaks are Essential to Employee Engagement

Management teams and the human resources department have the important responsibility of establishing specific policies for employees, from vacation days to daily break allotments. Because breaks are not required by federal law, some businesses choose to provide employees with brief lunchtimes or breaks, leaving many sitting at their desks to work until it’s time to clock out. Not only that, but some employees may have the belief that being available and working constantly is the only way to achieve recognition at work based on management’s attitude or behavior. However, studies have shown that employees truly need good breaks throughout the day in order to keep engaged in their position with the company.

According to Forbes, “Without taking adequate breaks from work, employee productivity, mental well-being and overall work performance begin to suffer. Overworked employees often deal with chronic stress that can easily lead to job burnout.” Of course, there are some employees you may run across that just love to work, but as a leader in the company, it is essential to encourage breaks for your employees to help them work to their best potential, benefiting the employee and the company.

Tork, a business supply company, performed a survey to discover the importance of the lunch break, specifically in North America. According to the survey:

  • Nearly 20% of employees worry their bosses won’t believe they are hardworking if they take a regular lunch break.
  • 13% worry co-workers will judge them for taking a lunch break.
  • 38% of employees do not feel encouraged to take a lunch break.
  • 22% of bosses say they believe that employees who take regular lunch breaks are less hardworking.

However, out of those who participated in the survey, nearly 90% of employees claim that lunch breaks leave them feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work. Think about trying to “power through” a task. Typically, you start out strong, motivated to get the job done, but as the day wears on, your drive begins to weaken as tasks become repetitive, mistakes occur when you stop analyzing so closely, and you generally begin to feel tired, especially if your time is spent in front of a computer screen. Research has shown that regular breaks provide:

  • Increased productivity. Breaks away from the desk restore focus and energy, especially helping prevent the afternoon slump.
  • Improved mental wellness. Working without breaks can contribute to ongoing stress. Stepping away for a break helps to remove oneself from the stressor to come back to the task with a clear mind and focus.
  • Boosted creativity. Taking a break brings new perspective to an ongoing task. Attempting to work on one thing for any prolonged period of time makes it more difficult to come up with new ideas.
  • Healthier personal habits. With more time, employees have the opportunity to make healthier decisions, such as not choosing fast food or vending machines for lunch, or can utilize the time to get in some exercise.

The survey also found that those who take a lunch are more likely to feel satisfied with their job and feel valued by their employer, and 81% of employees strongly desire to be an active member of the company. Teams function better when each member is able to contribute with their fullest potential.

With the value of breaks in mind, how can you as a leader help to ensure employees are taking them as needed?

  • Ensure your employees have a comfortable, dedicated break room away from their desk to recharge.
  • Provide incentives for employees who take advantage of breaks as part of your company’s wellness program.
  • Discuss with all employees the importance of taking breaks.
  • Practice what you preach and lead by example – take your own breaks.

If employees are still finding it difficult to figure out what to do with break times, encourage healthy ideas.

  • Help start walking clubs to take a stroll around the area together to get out of the office.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand in the kitchen or break room.
  • Allot your employees a certain amount of time each day to utilize your building’s gym, if available, or bring in a fitness trainer weekly for the group.
  • Encourage the group to socialize to form quality work relationships using a game area or weekly team activities – that don’t involve work.
  • Create a quiet space for employees to visit whenever they need it.

Although it seems counter-intuitive to encourage employees to stop working and take a break, you truly will see happier, more rejuvenated employees that will, in turn, help your business function that much better. If you are concerned that employees may be feeling overworked or are looking for honest, useful feedback about the company, take advantage of our SurveyRight® employee engagement surveys. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a live demo.