The Importance of Adequate Breaks Throughout a Working Day

By law, we are all entitled to adequate breaks throughout our working day. These will differ both in frequency and the ‘types’ of breaks we get according to the kind of work we’re doing and the number of continual hours we’re doing it for, although the minimum length per shift must be adhered to by law.

The fact is that rest breaks from work are not just important to those who are carrying out the jobs but they are equally important to the employers themselves as both productivity and health and safety issues could both be compromised if workers did not receive the benefit of at least the minimum break periods required under the law.

In fact, it’s often for these reasons why many companies will give you longer breaks than they’re actually required to do and will often try to structure these in a way which is more specific to the type of role a worker is performing. Here is a look at some of the ways breaks might be structured and the reasons why they’re important.

Scheduling a Break

Where it’s possible to do so, employers should allocate appropriate breaks based upon consideration of the factors below. These include:

  • Age and gender
  • Nature of the job
  • Environment in which the job is performed
  • Level of physical activity involved
  • Degree of repetition or monotony of a particular job
  • Experience of the worker in that particular role

Different Types of Breaks

Most workplace studies have reached the conclusion that workers are more productive if they have several shorter breaks a day as opposed to one much longer one. For most jobs which are full time based, two shorter breaks either side of longer ‘lunch’ type break is often adequate although employers may also need to take into account other considerations.

For example, where a job requires lots of physical exertion, several much shorter breaks will often help to keep fatigue at bay and keep production levels up. Those who work in extreme environments which are either very hot or very cold should also be given the opportunity to spend their break times outside of these extreme temperatures where possible to avoid the effects of either excessive heat or cold.

People who work in highly monotonous or repetitive jobs alongside those whose work involves constant monitoring or inspection should be offered more frequent shorter breaks in order to prevent boredom which can sometimes result in human error or a reduction in proficiency.

People who work behind a computer or data entry system all day also need to be able to get away from their screens every hour or so and to be able to get up and move about a bit in order that they’re simply not in a seated posture all day staring at a screen.

The rationale behind this type of thinking is not to allow specific groups to have more time off than other members of the workforce doing different jobs but simply to perhaps restructure breaks and rest times accordingly so that each type of worker can reap the most benefit from their rest breaks.

Another example might be where, say, a person who works behind a computer screen all day comes away from it every hour and does some filing or is given a different task to do for 10 minutes or so just so that they’re not staring at the computer screen all day.

Therefore, whilst it’s not always possible, where an employer is able to tailor breaks and structure them in a way which suits a particular type of job, the benefits will be clear for both the worker and the company alike.

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