Have you ever walked through an office and noticed that familiar dazed look on all of the workers’ faces? There comes a time in most workdays when people are just exhausted. What happens at this point? Work suffers. Everyone is familiar with the simple errors, reduced accuracy, and sloth speed of their work when they get really worn out. The mistake a lot of people make is trying to push through that workday slump. Taking the break that your mind and/or body need is imperative to staying on top of daily tasks.
Employees are only human, and as humans we have limited capacities. Every task we complete takes some form of energy. Some people may not think that sitting at a desk all day should be considered all that consuming; however, tons of mental resources are used to simply keep focus on even the easiest of tasks. Our focus, drive, speed, and accuracy can only last for so long. Our cognitive resources can dwindle until we’re left spinning our wheels on whatever present task. When a worker hits such a roadblock, the best thing to do is to step away for a moment. Even if it is as simple as taking a walk around the building to go to the bathroom or get a snack, any moment to renew your energy is worth it.
A lot of managers will try to limit the amount of breaks their workers take. It’s easy to understand why many managers feel like they have to be a tyrant in work environments that need to meet production or service demands. Managers definitely don’t want to let their employees run wild with free time, but allowing few to no breaks can hurt the company even more. Let employees have a break, and let that break be sufficient enough to let them recuperate. You can even give employees some say in their breaks, like whether they personally need a longer or shorter lunch break, or if they would like to have one long break versus a few shorter breaks. Each person is different in what he or she needs to stay actively productive, so allowing some individual input can make employees respect and like you more and provide you with optimal results.
It is important to allow breaks in policies and practice, as well as to make sure employees are actually taking those breaks and using them well. The workaholics are hard to stop sometimes, but even they could use a breather. Having an employee taking a “lunch break”, eating a sandwich while he or she continues to work, is not providing any real work relief. Just the same if coworkers sit around discussing their tasks and what needs to be done when they’re supposed to be stepping away isn’t going to allow anyone to clear his or her mind. Make sure you stress to your employees that it is perfectly okay to really disengage from work when they have break time. They can take their full 30 minute to hour lunch and get out of the office or at least step away from the desk. Even encouraging employees to go take a walk outside could provide some physical movement and temporary removal from any stress in the office.
At some extremes, some companies are even letting their employees power nap at work. “Nap rooms” have now found their place in quite a few notable organizations. While this seems funny and silly to a lot of employers, it may not be so silly after all. A 20-minute nap can revamp your brain and increase your effectiveness substantially. So while you may not want to go extreme and create your own nap room, let employees have their breaks. Just a five to fifteen minute step away from their tasks can help their productivity boost right back up. Your employees will appreciate you for it, and it’s going to cost you far less to allow them to step away completely than to let that afternoon daze consume their work.