Balancing productivity and breaks: The importance of employee rest
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
As an employer, productivity is one of the keys to the definition of a quality employee. You are actively seeking out someone who can get the job done in a reasonable amount of time, who is organized, and who is capable of prioritizing work tasks throughout the day. Someone who won’t stop until not only is everything finished, but it is perfect.
Well … maybe take back that last sentence.
It may come as a pretty big shock to many employers, but studies show the last bit isn’t really what you want in a highly productive employee. Those who don’t stop, who won’t look away until the job is done are actually the ones who are slowing down and burning out the fastest. Rather, you’re looking for someone who knows how to balance breaks and productivity. That’s your most successful employee.
Feels counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
The benefits of breaks to employees can seem pretty obvious when you give them a surface look. Employees enjoy their breaks, and they are opportunities to socialize with co-workers, take care of quick personal matters, and excuses to not focus on work for a few minutes. While all of these are true statements, there is much more going on than what meets the eye.
Psychological evidence indicates that taking breaks may actually help the brain process challenges and subconsciously work through problems. By focusing on something other than the problem at hand for a little while, the part of the brain that is responsible for higher-level thinking and focus can take a rest. This can help employees avoid decision fatigue or burn out and ultimately help them to stay engaged through the entirety of a project.
Regular breaks throughout the day have also been shown to help improve both physical and emotional health. It turns out sitting at a desk focusing on a specific project all day can really take a toll on the body and the mind. Walking on breaks, chatting with a co-worker, meditating, or even zoning out and listening to music are examples of emptying the mind and using breaks to improve long-term health.
All of these small benefits employees gain from taking regular breaks during the workday can really add up for companies. Part of this is because these breaks where employees focus on something other than work for a short period of time really, really boost productivity during the time they are working. An employee who takes about a 15-minute break for every hour they work is going to be substantially more productive than one that works straight through the day.
Even more interesting is that these breaks can help boost long-term motivation and company loyalty. You see, breaks where employees can interact or zone out for a while and come back rejuvenated are part of building employee engagement. Engaged employees are likely to be happier, provide better customer service, work more effectively, collaborate with co-workers and partners, and stay with the company longer.
Ultimately, something as small as encouraging employees to take breaks could lead to an improved company culture that draws in young talent. It could also lead to greater profits and margins of success for the company. An extra 15 minutes may feel like giving up a lot of working time for employees, but it can buy you a lot in the end.
Mandatory Rest Benefits
In some industries, mandatory rest is simply part of the job. Although many employers grumble at this, there are actually some substantial benefits here as well. Beyond the other benefits that have been discussed above, mandatory rest can help employees get through whatever they are doing more safely.
For those in industries that require a great deal of travel, the mandatory rest benefits can pay dividends when it comes to employee safety. For instance, in the trucking industry, drivers have substantial driving limits and regulations to follow in order to ensure they are getting enough rest. Though it can feel like the company is losing money by requiring this, they are greatly reducing risks of accidents and loss of life, both of which are tragic and expensive.
Regulations are pretty ubiquitous amongst industries that require some traveling. Other industries, such as accounting, have busy seasons where employees are working far more than normal. These employees are often paid back with substantial time off during their slower season, which can help them recharge and regain motivation for the next round of audits or tax filings.
It can seem very counterintuitive for companies to encourage their employees to take more breaks. However, there are profound benefits for both employees and the companies that pursue these break policies. Even mandatory breaks can have real benefits for employees that work challenging schedules.
Ultimately, breaks have benefits — does your company take them seriously?
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