To Break or not to Break? That is the Question.

As discussed in the recent New York Times Article: To Stay on Schedule, Take a Break, a study in the science journal Cognition conducted by Professor Lleras of the University of Illinois concluded that taking regular breaks improves productivity and creativity and that skipping breaks leads to stress and exhaustion.  

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are not required to offer short breaks, but if an employer chooses to offer such breaks, the break time would be included in compensable work hours and a factor in calculating overtime.  

And only eight states – California, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – require employers to provide rest breaks.  Of these eight states, all but two require a ten minute break period for employees for every four hours of work and the two exceptions provide for rest breaks that allow employees with adequate time to use the restroom.

Management policies that prohibit employees from taking rest breaks could be detrimental to workforce productivity, but also the health of the employees themselves.  See James Vlahos, Is Sitting a Lethal Activity, NY Times (Apr. 14. 2011) (reporting that men who spend more than six hours a day sitting have a twenty percent increase in their death rate, where women’s rates increased to over forty percent). 

“Long hours don’t mean good work — highly efficient, productive work is more valuable,” Dr. Levine, a Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic suggests, and frequent breaks promote that, noting that Albert Einstien was thought to have conceived the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle.

In order to increase productivity and concentration, management should encourage employee to develop effective break routines, suggests Dr. Levine stating that “the work should break up the break.”