Take a Break

Do you demand your employees take a break from work?

Although it is an unusual “demand,” there may be more merit in requiring work breaks than I originally thought.

The Statistics

I’m always surprised by many of the statistics about productivity in the American workplace. One surprising statistic is from an article about the most recent Gallup poll concerning the American workforce and how many people hate their job.  It’s disappointing that as many as two-thirds of American workers dislike their jobs.

A second surprising statistic is about how hard we work. Business Insider reports that of the typical eight-hour workday, the average worker actually works a paltry 2 hours and 53 minutes.

The problem I’d like to focus on is employees who hate their jobs and work less than three out of eight hours each day.

The Solution

One knee-jerk (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) reaction to these statistics is to recommend a 3-hour workday.  The rationale is that you would get the same amount of work from the workers, but they would only be forced to sit at a job they hate for a much shorter time.

I don’t see myself implementing that particular solution any time soon.

Before looking for other solutions, we need to consider what is going on during the 5 hours and 7 minutes that the workers are not engaged.

I suspect employees when they are not working, tend to relax, kick back, rest their eyes, read non-business emails, check social media, visit with coworkers, and daydream.

What are they really doing?

Much of the current workplace productivity literature today recommends we allow time for our employees to relax, kick back, rest their eyes, read non-business emails, check social media, visit with coworkers, and daydream.

Our employees are doing exactly what the productivity experts suggest we employers allow them to do—only they do it in an unstructured environment.

Specifically, we should encourage our employees who work in a stressful environment to periodically:

  1. Take a walk. Get outside and engage visually and spiritually in a different environment.
  2. Work your muscles. Through a process called Progressive Muscle Relaxation, you can stretch, exercise and relax specific muscle groups that will energize you to be prepared to go back to work once again.
  3. Meditate. This has been scientifically shown to help you relax as well as aid in a slew of other personal health benefits.
  4. Pay attention to your surroundings. Trade your chair for a stability ball.

Ironically, our employees are doing exactly what we should be asking them to do.  And if we ask them to take a break at work, maybe they will work more than 2 hours and 53 minutes each day in a job that they enjoy.

The Benefits

Here are five benefits to requiring employees to take a break.

First, your business will be seen as an employee-centric company.  These breaks are for the employee’s enjoyment and benefit.

Second, you may be able, in a structured way, teach your employees how to benefit from a period of relaxation. Through proper training and providing better facilities (such as installing a meditation garden), your employees will get more benefit from their relaxation.

Third, if the employees are trained better at relaxation, you may be able to significantly increase that 2 hour and 53 minutes of productivity that the average company experiences.

Fourth, by training your people in the art of relaxation, maybe more of your employees will begin to like their job. And, we know employees who like their job will have a positive impact on the bottom line.

The Bible

Finally, encouraging our employees to enjoy periods of rest and relaxation is mandated by the Bible.  God knows we are not naturally wired to rest.  In Genesis, after the days of Creation, God rested not because he was tired, but because He wanted to set an example for us to follow.

Relying on God during our rest gives us the added benefit of knowing all will be well.  The need for rest in the workplace is to alleviate stress.  We are often driven by our desire to work, and the stress of succeeding has a significant impact on our productivity.

Which is why Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 says

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Our employees need to be encouraged to take an occasional break from work.  And, if used properly, that break will significantly benefit your business through increased productivity and job satisfaction.  And, if they so choose, they can also enjoy this rest with God in mind.