Do Breaks Help Productivity?


I was hoping to find out if you know of any research/a report that looks at how not stepping away from your desk/having a proper lunch break can be bad for productivity.

Any info would be much appreciated.

Many Thanks.


Need A Break


Dear Need A Break:

Hello! I’m sorry, but we focus on workplace communication concerns and your question is more of an HR or FLSA question. I’ve listed some possible resources below. Let me provide a thought or two apart from those.

If you are asking because of a requirement in your work, consider why there is such a requirement, as a way to decide whether it is likely your employer will change the rule.

Requirements that employees stay at their work area are not usually based on getting more productivity from them, but rather on needing someone to staff a position continuously. Thus, increased productivity or not wouldn’t make a difference in the requirement.

Another thing to consider is if there is a creative way you could at least move a bit away from your work area but not leave it completely. One workplace that requires employees to staff a counter, placed a small table and chair near the counter to allow employees to have coffee or lunch away from their workstation but still be able to view the counter.

I don’t know if specific research has been done on the issue but you could likely find as much as we could by checking Internet searches. Some states mandate breaks for employees. Perhaps you could look at the Department of Labor sites in those states and see if they have wording in their laws that justifies requiring breaks. You might also check the websites of attorneys that specialize in employment law and see if they give resources for that issue.

You might check with labor unions to see if they have studies to back up contract negotiations ensuring their members get away-from-work-area breaks.

As a final thought, you might want to see if your situation regarding taking breaks at your work space has an effect on wages. If you completely stop working during lunch and breaks it could potentially change your pay, according to the requirements of your work and how those relate to FLSA requirements.

It seems logical and intuitive that people will function better if they can rest both mind and body, so I think it is optimal for employees to be able to take a break by leaving their work areas. But, I’m also aware that many employees resent requirements that they leave their work areas to take breaks. Others would like the option to leave. At the same time, some work situations need to have employees stay and some are benefited by having employees leave. So, each work situation is unique and tends to defy a set rule.

Best wishes in your research efforts!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.