Productivity in the workplace - the holy grail of managers and business owners, that slippery thing that everyone is trying to measure, and the finish line of the rat race that is work optimization.
And this shouldn’t surprise us. Who wouldn’t want an employee who puts in effort 100% of the time? This is what brings in results and money. But in this blind rush to get there, people forget one thing - that it’s impossible.
Yes, you should work towards improving your team’s productivity, but you’ll never get to 100%. At least not until the rise of fully intelligent employable robots.
Could the answer then lie in catering to the employees’ human needs? Could the way to get slightly nearer to the 100% be found in the most unlikely of places - breaks?
This article will present you with some reasons why you should give breaks a try as well as how to make your efforts focused and successful by implementing employee time tracking.
The Elephant in the Room
Before we officially begin, let’s address the obvious reaction to the title of this blog - how in the world could not working increase work productivity?
If you’re thinking this, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a study, 22% of employers in America believe that employees who have a regular lunch break are not as hard-working as those who don’t. Even employees pick up on this, as 38% of them don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.
This is probably the result of chasing after that ‘100%’ mirage. For many employers, productivity is defined as time spent working. It almost doesn’t matter whether the job was well done. Or whether it was done at all.
So, let’s redefine workplace productivity - it’s quality time spent on work-related tasks that goes towards providing top-notch product/service within a predefined time frame. Doesn’t that make more sense?
What Breaks Give You that Hustling Doesn’t
As we’ve said before, your employees are living breathing human creatures. As such, they have biological, social and psychological needs that prevent them from effectively working for eight straight hours every day. If you try to force them to, their mind will wander off, their stomachs will growl and they’ll probably grow to hate you in less than a month and just leave.
So, other than it not being possible to work without them, breaks can have other beneficial effects on employees’ productivity:
- Regaining focus: We can’t stay focused for more than 120 minutes. After that, our productivity starts to plunge. Fast. So, having a short repose every two hours can help get employees’ focus back.
- Job satisfaction: Happiness fuels productivity. If regular breaks are encouraged, employees will be satisfied and, dare we say it, happy to work.
- Building relationships with colleagues: Great atmosphere and collaboration are fertile soil for productivity. You don’t have to organize expensive team buildings every week - employees will get along just as well if you simply let them talk to each other a bit while they’re in the office.
- Overall health and wellbeing: Eating on the go isn’t healthy. Neither is forgetting to stay hydrated. Make sure your employees are healthy and stress-free and you’ll have a more productive workforce.
- Smaller chance to get distracted when actually working: This follows logically from regained focus. If your employees have just eaten their lunch in peace, they’ll be less likely to think about food for the next four hours or to google recipes.
All things considered, breaks aren’t as crazy an option as they seemed at the beginning, huh?
But you can’t just allow a break whenever workers feel like it and make them as long as they wish. This is still their workplace and some rules have to exist. So, how do you decide when to let employees take breaks?
How to Use Employee Time Tracking to Set Breaks
As we’ve said, a break every two hours is a recommended dose, but you don’t want to force it in the middle of someone’s creative flow.
Using work tracker software can help with setting perfectly timed breaks.
Here’s how it works:
Your employee time tracking software detects which apps and websites are active on each employee’s computer and tracks time they spend in these. Based on that, work hour tracker can tell you whether that time was productive or not. As a bonus, employee time tracking data is provided in the form of ready-made productivity and biorhythm reports which can show you what the most and least productive time of day is for different individuals and teams.
You can use these to help you decide when to allow breaks. It’s usually going to be when you see a dip in productivity within a work project tracker. When employees start opening up Facebook and minimizing Word documents, it’s probably time to get a short rest.
Work tracker can also help you measure the results of your experiments. Try setting a 15-minute break when you see a regular productivity dip and watch what happens. Is productivity skyrocketing after that? Or is it all the same?
And in answering these questions, don’t forget to look at the actual work being done, not just how much time was spent in Excel. Remember, it’s quality that you’re really looking for.
These are the two things we’d like you to take away from all this:
- Treat your employees like humans that they are.
- Focus on the quality when measuring productivity.
If you apply these principles, you’ll see that allowing breaks and using employee time tracking to discover the right time for them is really a very logical consideration. Who knows, this might just be a tipping point in getting a bit closer to that 100%.