Once upon a time, employers expected their employee relationship to be pretty simple: employees do the work requested and they get a paycheck from the employer in return. That was pretty much it at one time in history, but times have changed.
With the advent of Gen X and especially the Millennials, younger generations are demanding more from their employers. They want to work to live, not live to work, and work-life balance is becoming non-negotiable for many employees. We’re also now seeing a greater emphasis on self-care, both at work and outside of work.
More than a buzzword
Self-care is a popular buzzword right now, and that sometimes means it gets dismissed quickly. In the business realm, few employees are talking about self-care at work, but they should be.
Many Silicon Valley firms became famous for their onsite amenities like gyms, cafeterias, free lunch, and other things that made people never have to leave their campuses. But do those things matter if employees aren’t given time to take care of themselves?
It’s important that your people are both willing and able to take time away from their work. That they can unplug and de-stress when they need to. And that starts in the simplest of ways: with the lunch break.
You don’t always know everything that’s going on in your employees’ lives. Some of them may be working two jobs. Some of them may have family responsibilities—maybe they drop off the kids before coming to work, pick them up on the way home, take them to practice, make them dinner, put them to bed and only then have a chance to get any time for themselves.
A few minutes in the middle of the workday can be extremely valuable in giving employees time for themselves.
Not all of your employees may want to take a lunch break that involves going out to a restaurant or even going to the break room to eat lunch. Some of them might prefer to spend their break watching TV on their phone, going to the gym, taking a walk, or learning a new hobby. Whatever activity it is they want to do with that time, it’s important to make sure they know that they need to take it.
Help them realize that they can take that time without being penalized or without feeling guilty. If it helps, start referring to those breaks differently as a company. Instead of lunch breaks, try calling them self-care breaks or personal breaks.
If you run a car without changing the oil, will it keep going? No, it won’t. And neither will your employees.
Think of breaks as the oil that keeps your employees’ engines running. Regular breaks increase productivity and decrease mistakes, as people tend to do better at their work after taking a few minutes away. And they’ll boost your retention over the long term.
Actively encourage your employees to take regular breaks and you’ll be surprised at the dividends your business can reap.
Need help writing a policy and communicating with employees about the importance of regular breaks? We can help.