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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, July 22, 2018 1:00 am

Taking breaks actually boosts productivity

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Take a break. You deserve it. And don't forget to encourage your employees to do the same.

McDonald's, for decades, had a slogan built on taking a break. It became one of the top advertising jingles of all time.

In today's workplace, though, breaks aren't always embraced, according to emails that landed in my personal and work inboxes last week.

One email linked to an article published in late June by Travis Bradberry, co-founder of TalentSmart. Working long, continuous blocks of time with few or no breaks actually stifles productivity, the article said.

Bradberry cited a recent study by the Draugiem Group that used a computer application to track employees' work habits. It measured the time people spent on tasks in comparison to productivity levels. Bottom line: the length of the workday didn't matter as much as how people structured their day, the article said. People who regularly took short breaks were actually much more productive than those who worked longer hours.

“The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work,” Bradberry said in the article. “For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100 percent dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn't check Facebook 'real quick' or get distracted by emails.”

Rob Wilson, president of Illinois employee solutions firm Employco USA, cited in a separate email the results from a survey Tork released this spring. 

“The hour-long lunch may be dead, and its demise may be killing employee job satisfaction at American workplaces,” Tork, an Essity brand, said in a May news release. The survey reveals that nearly 90 percent of employees consider the ability to take a lunch break critical when accepting a new job. However, once they are on the job, the average lunch break is less than 30 minutes for more than half of North American workers.

Hesitation to take a full lunch break seems to stem from a lack of communication. While 88 percent of North American bosses think employees would say they are encouraged to take a regular lunch break, only 62 percent of workers actually feel encouraged – a 26 point gap, showing a major disconnect.

The fear some employees have about how breaks might be perceived is not unfounded because the research showed some bosses are indeed judgmental, Employco's Wilson said.

More than 20 percent think employees who take regular lunch breaks are not as hard-working, and 34 percent of bosses say they take into account how often an employee takes lunch breaks when evaluating their job performance, Wilson said. That sort of management philosophy can be harmful.

“Almost 90 percent of employees say that a lunch break makes them feel refreshed and ready to return to work with a clear mind,” Wilson said.

“Other research has borne out the fact that taking breaks is good for an employee's mood, precision and creative abilities.”

CEOs leaving posts

The number of chief executive officers leaving their posts reached 90 in June, virtually unchanged from the 91 who did so in May. June's total rounds out the quarter at 290 CEO exits, up 9 percent from the same quarter last year, according to a report from global outplacement consultancy and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

June's total is 5 percent lower than the 95 CEOs who left their posts in the same month last year. The quarterly total is 15 percent lower than the 341 CEOs who left their posts in the first quarter of this year.

In the first six months, 631 CEOs have left their posts, up 11 percent from the 567 who left their posts during the same period last year.

“While companies are dealing with a strong economy and favorable tax breaks, they are also contending with labor shortages, a potential trade war, and uncertainty surrounding legislation, causing boards to rethink leadership,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears as a column in The Journal Gazette's Sunday Business section.