How many breaks in a day?

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The ongoing discussion about increasing flexibility in the workplace is firmly on the agenda, and set to continue well into 2012 and beyond.

The argument from many employees is often that modern workplaces should be better recognizing the work done at home, after hours, and on the weekend, and not simply the ‘8hours/ 5 days/ 52 weeks’ model.

However, instituting greater flexibility for workers poses many challenges for employers, and many argue that it is difficult to quantify hours not worked at the office.

The debate continues, and until we’ve fully arrived in the ‘new world of work’, there is still the problem of what to do with incessant break takers – and takeaway coffee addicts, as well as smokers, are in the sights of HR.

But according to workplace and teamwork expert Dr Nicole Gillespie, there's nothing to fear for those having a few cups a day.

"There's evidence to support the view that having regular breaks can enhance productivity,” Gillespie said.

Liz Stone commented, “If we instituted no coffee breaks, we would find that we lose all the productivity benefits that come from treating staff like responsible adults instead of naughty children. The benefits includes the less visible work they do at home on the weekend, the missed lunch breaks, staying behind at night to finish an important task. In my workplace the 'coffee buyers' are often those who are about to put in a very long day, hours longer than their paid hours.”

Rod Sherwin, Tap4Health, agreed, “Having a break is actually a simple creative thinking technique. Edward DeBono called it a "creative pause". When we take a break from trying to solve a tough problem often we get an insight or breakthrough that wouldn't have come otherwise. A few coffee or smoke breaks a day is good for this. What they do for your health is a different issue though.”

Sharon Dwyer said, “If you combined the results from surveys on the amount of unpaid overtime workers do with this survey on coffee breaks it looks like it is part of the rich tapestry of give and take between employers and employees to maintain a healthy psychological contract. This has far more effect on productivity than sticking rigidly to some productive v unproductive time model.”


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