Posted By:

Trish Barnes on December 31, 2015

Need a Break? Your Employees Do, Too!

With the average American working 9.2 hours a day, it’s important that employees are able to take periodic breaks to relax and recharge. Otherwise, it’s easy to experience burnout — and it’s common for productivity to dwindle. From a legal standpoint, many state laws require employers to provide their staff with either rest breaks or meal breaks. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to offering work breaks to your employees and the positive impact it can have on your company.

The Importance of Work Breaks

Numerous studies have shown that taking periodic breaks helps businesses in many ways including increasing employee productivity, preventing fatigue/burnout and boosting employee morale. More specifically…

  • 86 percent of employees agreed that taking breaks makes them more productive
  • Mircrobreaks (between 30 seconds and five minutes) improve mental acuity by an average of 13 percent
  • Taking regular breaks of 1.5 minutes increased worker productivity by 6.45 percent — and taking regular breaks of two minutes increased productivity by 11.15 percent

The bottom line is that humans are prone to burnout when there’s an unhealthy balance between work and break time. To operate at peak level, it’s necessary to give employees periodic work breaks where they can relax and unwind.

Types of Breaks

Work breaks typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Meal breaks – These range anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour, and employees may often go off premises to have a meal
  • Snack or coffee breaks – This is where employees take off for 10 to 15 minutes for a quick snack and/or to drink a beverage
  • Restroom breaks – Employees will take a brief break of a few minutes to use the restroom and get refreshed
  • Smoking breaks – These aren’t as common as they used to be because many businesses have banned smoking on company premises, but last for around five to 10 minutes
  • Health breaks – These are typically reserved for individuals with disabilities or other specialized medical needs where they tend to their health and usually last for five to 10 minutes

Laws and Regulations

While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t have any formal requirements that demand that employers offer their employees breaks, there are many state laws that do have regulations. To determine which laws your state has, you can consult The United States Department of Labor website.

In terms of compensation, you’re generally expected to pay workers during their breaks. The only type of scenario where employers aren’t required to pay employees is for breaks when they’re relieved of all of their duties or for breaks that exceed 30 minutes in length.

Although scheduling break times can be difficult for many small to mid-sized businesses because of the workload and limited manpower, it’s hard to deny the advantages that it offers. And when you consider the laws that some states have in place, you may be legally required to offer work breaks. That’s why it’s important to develop a schedule where your employees can have adequate breaks, while ensuring that the workload is still covered.