Federal Law doesn’t require you to give your employee breaks. Wait, what? I can get someone to work for 8 straight hours? Federally, yes. However, almost half of the states do require a meal break for every 5 hours worked. So the real question is, should you give your employees paid breaks?
Yes. The answer is yes no matter how you look at it. Not paid excessive breaks, but two paid 15-minute breaks for an 8-hour shift should be paid. In fact, if your meal break is less than 20-minutes it is considered a part of your work day and must be paid anyway. Some employers provide two 15-minute paid breaks and an unpaid lunch if it exceeds 30 min. There are many different break rules but give them something paid!
Why should you pay for them to go on a break?
Say again? Increased Productivity! Employees who take breaks are typically more productive. Enough more productive that you paying them for 15-minutes of break time pays off and then some. Mornings are most productive (generally speaking) because your staff is coming in with a fresh mind. Halfway through the day, they are often merely dragging along. They don’t have the same motivation as when they started that morning. Now, while there is no way to completely restore that same level of motivation, you can give it a boost. Let them go walk around the block and make a few phone calls. Or just play games on their phones for 15-minutes to refresh. This will give them a much larger boost than you might think and they will get more done that day than if they didn’t have the break.
Reduce Stress Levels
How long can you focus on one thing without going crazy? Not 8 hours, unless your job is your passion. Once the employee starts to stress out they should take a few minutes and go for a walk and decompress. This helps with productivity as well as mental health and turnover. This one depends on your industry a little bit. When I worked retail I didn’t need a break unless I had just been stuck with a crazy customer. The work was mindless and I let my mind wander so I didn’t feel like I was stuck in the same thing.
There is more to breaks than mental health. The American Journal of Epidemiology did a survey revealing that sitting for long time frames makes you 18% more likely to have major health issues such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes than someone who doesn’t sit for more than 6 hours straight. Stretching while on your break will help keep your blood moving and looking away from your screens for a few minutes will help with eye strain. Give your employees a quick break to help them stay healthy.
Why employees won’t take unpaid breaks
Unpaid brakes typically only affect hourly employees. They are expected to work 8 hours a day and often the type of work that they do doesn’t influence their long-term career goals, making them less motivated to begin with. If their main requirement is to punch in, work for 8 hours, and punch out, then that is what they will do. Another big reason is child care. If they have to pay someone to watch their kids during their breaks, but they don’t get paid for that time themselves, then why would they extend their time at work by taking a break? If they take those breaks you will have a much happier and more productive employee, it is worth the cost, trust me.