Employees Skipping Breaks – Why You Should NOT Encourage It

lunchThe dynamics of the workplace have changed from employees simply punching a timeclock to this world of “working until the job is done”…regardless of the number of hours it takes.  As employers, we push our employees to give 100% and employees, in turn, have had it burned into their brains that they need to give 110% to keep their employer happy…and keep their job.

Speed is the winner in this game: so employers and employees are constantly trying to stay two steps ahead of the competition from working longer hours to constantly checking their smart phones for new emails even late at night while at home.  The worst offenders are salaried employees who simply just don’t know how to turn their work off when they leave the office.

Let’s look at the statistics on this…

CareerBuilder conducted a recent study and found that:

–         32% of employees take less than a half hour break for lunch

–         5% taken less than 15 minutes

–         One in 10 employees never even takes a lunch break

–         16% actually work right through their lunch break

Add the pressure of the job market still not back to pre-2008 standards and I would even venture to guess that those numbers would be higher depending on the industry or current workload.  So while we may be getting more out of our employees, is it the right thing to do?

Laws on breaks will vary from state to state, but in Illinois: “An Illinois employee who is to work 7 1/2 continuous hours or more shall be provided an unpaid meal period of at least 20 minutes. The meal period must be given to an employee no later than 5 hours after beginning work.”  What is not stipulated is whether or not the employer has to require the employee to take their break…and here is where companies can run into hot water if they aren’t careful.

But aside from taking a “legal” look at this, the more important considerations to take into account is how this is affecting your employees work product and job satisfaction…two things that can cost more in the long run with potential worker’s comp issues, excessive time off, and negative attitudes.  And the last one is the hardest to control in this world of Social Media where a “bad day at the office” can lead to a Twitter posting or Facebook status update putting the company in a bad light.

Getting away from their desk…even for 20min…allows them to detach both physically and mentally from the job, giving their brain just enough time to “reset” itself to tackle the rest of the day.

If its something that occurs once in a while, I wouldn’t concern myself.  But, if you are in an industry where employees are working long hours consistently…make sure they take that break!

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