Perceptions Toward Rest Breaks
Posted on February 21, 2012 by TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)
Consider the amount of time you spend on a computer each day. As computer use increases in the typical workplace, the number of health problems will also increase. We cause our bodies a great deal of strain when we work at a computer for 8+ hours a day. The National Institute of Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) recommends taking a rest break for five minutes for every hour spent on the computer.
Why do the majority of employees not abide by this recommendation? There are several reasons that employees are not taking enough rest breaks. A common reason is that employees do not know that they should. Very few organizations seem to promote taking breaks and encourage employees to do so. An employee may be suffering from strain of some sort and not even know that the lack of breaks is a contributing factor.
At my job this past summer, I worked on a computer for eight hours and did not take a break other than to use the restroom. What was my reasoning? The work that I was involved in was very tedious and once I began a task it took about an hour to complete. The nature of the work discouraged me from taking a break. After completing one task I typically got up to get a drink or use the restroom, but did not take a break as NIOSH recommends. This is a common problem for employees. Once we begin a task, we often get “in the zone” and don’t want to stop our momentum regardless of whether we should or not. I often think about the times I have sat at my kitchen table for four and five straight hours hammering out a paper. When finished, I feel not only exhausted, but my body aches.
Another reason many of us do not take breaks has to do with what we perceive our boss or manager will think of us. We often think to ourselves, “If I take a break, my boss will think I’m lazy.” How others think of us in the workplace matters to us, especially the opinions of our managers/boss. During the economic recession, employees tend to be even more nervous about giving their employer any reason to fire them. This is a tough one because sometimes our bosses do expect us to always be working despite problems that may occur with this practice. Some organizations believe that engaged employees should be hard at work at all times of the day. Employees are therefore less likely to take breaks if they fear that leaders within the organization will notice and negative perceptions will be associated with the breaks.
The lunch break is beginning to fade out. I can remember when lunch breaks were typically an hour long and sometimes my dad was able to meet my mom and I for lunch. Most organizations I have worked in recently seem to have a very different idea of a lunch break. This summer I worked during my lunch break. This was a personal choice as I wanted to be able to leave earlier to avoid traffic on my commute. However, out of the entire office, there was typically only one person that would leave the office for lunch or step away from his desk. Everyone else ate at their desk while working. Lunch is often the most “reasonable” break we allow ourselves to have. However, with the increasingly common working through lunch routine, we fail to give ourselves a much needed break from computer use and other health-straining activities.
If you work in an organization that you feel does a poor job promoting and encouraging work breaks, get them involved. Recommend implementing new practices such as text reminders to take a break or flyers in your work environment. Your organization may not know that taking breaks can save them in the long run by cutting back on employees suffering from health problems associated with constant computer use.