Human Resources

Managing Employee Breaks

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

By managing your employee's break times, you can increase your productivity and reduce your costs.

Sometimes the seemingly insignificant components of running a business can play a big part in determining the success of the organization.

This is the case with the often ignored employee break times.

By managing your employee's break times, you can increase your productivity and reduce your costs.

I am not suggesting turning yourself into Uncle Scrooge and cutting your employee's well-earned break times. What I am suggesting is that employee break time needs to be structured and planned just like any other part of your business.

Depending upon the laws in your State and your company policy, your employees probably take a small break in the morning and a longer break for lunch in the afternoon.

The law usually specifies break times in minutes based on hours worked by your employees. If you are not familiar with the employee laws in your state, make sure to become familiar with them.

In terms of when and how many employees per break, this should be determined by your company and should be in the best interest of your company.

It is commonly observed that employees are most productive in the morning. This is certainly not set in stone, and you should have a better feel for your employee's productivity, but morning is the common hot spot for productivity.

If your company offers a coffee break in the morning, the timing of this break is critical. When employees return from break, it takes a little while for them to get back to the point of productivity they had reached prior to the break. As a result, you would want to place the break during a time when it is most convenient for the company, without being unreasonable to the employees. If you have a job that is due to be complete at 10:15 AM but the morning break time is typically at 9:50, don't be afraid to push the break time back to 10:15 until the job is completed. You may see increases to productivity if you say "break time will occur when we're done with this job". You want to be sure to explain to the employees why the break has been delayed, otherwise there may be resentment from the employees.

Recording and observing time study data will help you better understand your operation and the effect that break times have on your company's productivity. If you measure output throughout the day, you may find hotspots where you don't want your breaks to occur.

You may also observe huge drops in productivity after their breaks. This may require some extra managerial attention when employees return from break. Time study data is a tremendous tool that can paint a terrific picture of what is really happening on the front lines.

Lunchtime breaks are a great way for your employees to recharge their motors after a morning push. Your time study data will provide you with personalized information, but typically afternoon's are sluggish and the slowest period of productivity is immediately following lunch.

Depending upon your workload and the nature of your work, you may want to stagger your employees' lunch times (half at one time, the other half at another time). This may help alleviate the large drop in productivity after lunch.

There are other issues to consider when it comes to large group breaks. If employees have to wait in line to punch out or wait in line to use the kitchen facilities then staggered breaks may help to ease these problems as well.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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Have you fine-tuned your employee breaks to improve business results? If so, please share your lessons learned.

  • xman posted on 2/11/2010
    my break is from 9:15 to 9:30. I walked in the break room with 3 others at 9:13 45 my job was threatened,if i loose my job because of this,what action can i take if any at all?

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