A previous post has already discussed the benefits of productive breaks at work, but what that article didn't discuss in great detail was how you can proactively schedule and manage your employees' time to ensure effective breaks. This is an important part of helping your staff to take enough time away from work, at the right time of the day, so that they can manage the rest of their day productively.

Here are some tips for managing staff breaks.

Schedule in advance

As with most things, scheduling breaks in advance can really help save you time when it comes to people management. It also allows your employees to plan and prepare for their break-time, making sure it's time well spent away from work.

Of course, it may not be possible for you to know in advance when is a good time for staff to take breaks each day, but the more notice you can provide, the more chance your staff will manage their workload accordingly around that break-time, rather than them getting demotivated and tired waiting for you to tell them when they can have lunch.

You can easily schedule breaks directly on your staff rota by using Findmyshift. Breaks can be entered very easily and quickly by just typing in a time frame (e.g. 12:00 - 12.45) and adding the word "Break" as a comment to a staff member's shift. Your staff will then be able to see this entry, and can even get an email or push notification once it has been scheduled. As an additional bonus, the system will also deduct this time from paid hours (if you need it to) and will store other historic data relating to breaks so you can review reports and stats about when your employees are taking breaks and for how long, etc.

Ask your staff about their breaks

Asking your employees when they would like to take their break is a great way to boost employee engagement and to ensure they take their break when they need it most, helping them come back to work more focused and energised. While they may not always be able to take a break when they want, you can at least give them some options so they feel more included in the process.

Observe your staff

As well as asking your staff when they would prefer to take a break, you should also take some time to monitor their energy levels at work and see if you can identify when their productivity or attention dips. You can then suggest that they take a break just before this happens.

If offering them a break at this time isn't possible, or perhaps they've already had their break, talk to them and find out if something else will help with their change in energy like a healthy snack or switching up their tasks a bit.

Be flexible

Flexible employers are no longer the exception to the rule, and employees expect their managers to be accommodating to their needs, wishes and other commitments, like family or personal appointments, without them having to work overtime or lose their lunch-break to make up for it. Therefore, make it clear that employees can swap or change their break-time (within reason) if they want to and certainly don't demand that staff use break-times to go to doctors' appointments or to fulfil other duties. If you can afford one of your employees to leave early to pick up an unwell child once in a blue moon, then why not let it happen? They will appreciate your flexibility and understanding, and will respond by respecting you more, and working harder for you.

Try to keep any rules about break-times very limited so employees know that this time is theirs to rest, relax and regain energy for their work.

Be generous

Repeated research shows that when an employer meets employees' needs, they experience higher rates of employee retention. You should therefore see the opportunity to give your team unexpected bonus break-times not as giving them free time-off, but showing your appreciation of their work and indirectly telling them that you value them as an employee, and want them to stay that way.

About the author

Emma Saldanha is a content creator here at Findmyshift. Emma has more than 10 years experience in content creation, marketing and PR. In between writing for Findmyshift, Emma writes marketing and branding advice for small to medium business on her blog, writtenbyems. Connect with Emma on Twitter and Facebook.