MANUFACTURING LINE EMPLOYEE MICRO-BREAK
It is no secret that great people build great businesses. The Holy Grail, however, lies in the ability to attract and retain the best and brightest multi- generational talent across all functional domains. This need is particularly true in the United States manufacturing space, where the median age is 47, and 59% of the current employee base will retire in the next ten years. The talent cliff is eminent. Only 23% of the present worker population is aged 25-34 years, and just 9% is aged 20-24 years1. Creating a culture of trust, camaraderie, and rejuvenation is a key tactic in building an employer of choice reputation. This document exhibits the importance of breaks in the manufacturing environment. Breaks can refer to the amount of time to take a pause from work; physical spaces to take that pause, or even activities that one can do during a moment away from a manufacturing line or task. The accumulation of job strain throughout the workday contributes to declines in employee productivity, concentration, and well-being. Physical and mental stress related to work also increases accident and injury rates, absenteeism, and healthcare costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, injury rates in the food manufacturing sector are 30% higher than the national average due to frequent contact with machinery1. Couple that with the high turnover of the line level workforce, training and safety programs cannot be executed in a transactional way. They must be ingrained into the culture of the company. One such cultural shift that organizational researchers have seen positive results in is the implementation of routine, company-sanctioned within-workday micro-breaks to combat the adverse effects of job strain1. The current state of occupational science recommends that manufacturing companies implement brief hourly breaks, during which employees engage in activities that they enjoy or are relaxing. To maximize restoration, it is further recommended that these companies provide physical space that facilitates those activities. These recommendations; however should be viewed in light of the particular needs of each company’s employees and the culture in which they work. Only then can employers develop the optimal work break solutions for their employees in turn, optimize performance and workplace satisfaction in the manufacturing environment. Principal Researcher: Rachel S. Permuth, PhD, MSPH Sodexo Director of Research, North America Associate Researcher: Michele Gazica, JD Doctoral Student, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, University of South Florida
“QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BREAKS IN THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR” Q: Are there any studies that indicate how long breaks can be without sacrificing productivity of the workers? A: Manufacturing organizations have long studied time, motion, ergonomics, safety, industrial design, and production line engineering. From a pure time to production output perspective, the answer to this question is a rather simple scheduling equation. But then again, an emerging body of research in the occupational science field indicates that production line workers require a nine minute break every 51 minutes to reduce muscular-skeletal discomfort they might experience from the unique physical stress placed on their bodies in the manufacturing environment.2 Clearly, the equation shifts from one of scheduling available time and forecasted output, to one of balancing the time of a mentally and physically optimized person. A person that can produce at a higher and safer level because they are focused mentally, and physically renewed. Q: What types of activities (if any) should we provide during employee breaks? A: To promote within-day recovery from work demands, employees should be encouraged to engage in activities that reduce demands on personal resources and allow for these resources to be recovered. The key to recovery is the types of activities people engage in during their breaks - either low effort (relaxation, sitting quietly, and sleep) or preferred choice (activities that the person finds enjoyable).3 To promote recovery from work stress, it is essential that employees use their breaks as they see fit. In a 2011 study published in the Academy of Management Journal, Trougakos, Hideg, Cheng, and Beal demonstrate that, socializing during lunch breaks aided recovery only for those who also had high autonomy over their break activities. Relaxation activities aided recovery regardless of level of autonomy.4 Q: What should a good break-room have in it? What should it look like? A: In a 2014 study led by John Trougakos, associate professor of management at the University of Toronto, 200 workers at organizations of all sizes across the United State and Canada agreed that healthy snacks, thoughtfully designed space, and the ability to unplug were important factors of a break-room:5 § Provide healthy snacks and beverages. Employees want snacks, and the majority prefer healthy options, such as nuts and granola bars, compared to chips, cookies or candy. § Think about comfort. Furniture is an important consideration for the overall comfort and appeal of the break room.
§ Employers can provide furniture that allows employees to unwind with their snacks and beverages, and socialize with colleagues. Disconnect when taking a break. Trougakos said employees need to mentally detach from work to restore the energy it takes to work productively. Thinking about work doesn’t relieve stress, and employees won’t fully recharge or maximize the usefulness of a break. Maintain a break-encouraging workplace culture. This helps reduce employee guilt from taking necessary breaks and makes breaks more effective. Ultimately, this will improve worker well-being and productivity. Encourage positive energy. Employees should do something during breaks to generate positive feelings, since these emotions are energizing, improve creativity and can increase productivity. Natural environments are more restorative than urban environments.6 Indoor environments can be redesigned to simulate more natural settings (e.g., potted plants; images of nature; nature through windows, etc.).7 The break room and a break culture must be approved, supported, and encouraged!8 § § § § § Q: How much time should be allotted to a break and what are the benefits of breaks? A: Regular short bouts (<10 minutes each) of physical activity incorporated throughout the workday are linked to:9 § Increases in productivity, concentration, goal setting, commitment, self-efficacy, self-esteem, satisfaction, and physical and mental health. § Decreases in fatigue, irritability, restlessness, and tension. Brief mental breaks from a task are linked to dramatic increases in one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods of time.10 Booster breaks (organized, routine work break designed to improve physical and mental health and job satisfaction while sustaining or improving productivity) enhance social interaction, promote enjoyment, and reduce stress.11 Findings from studies with meat-processing plant employees, poultry inspectors, and industrial shift workers at a large engineering company indicate that more frequent and/or longer rest breaks lead to less strain and injury. They also reduce workers’ risk of job-related strains and accidents.12
Regular rest breaks are recommended to prevent accumulation of accident risk during sustained activities. For industrial settings, the results of one study (car assembly plant) found that in two hours of continuous work, the relative risk of an accident in the last half-hour of a shift was 2.08 higher than in the first half-hour.13 Exercising during breaks may have substantial benefits for workers. In one study, employees who assembled computer boards performed a set of 23 flexibility and strength exercises, designed to prevent lower back and carpal tunnel injury, for 10 minutes each day under supervision. After 6 months of program implementation, there were significant improvements in wrist flexion, wrist extension, low-back flexibility, fatigue, anger, depression, and mood. The authors concluded that exercises can be integrated successfully into the daily work routines of employees with a favorable impact on preventive measures for cumulative trauma disorders and mood states.14 Micro-break activities, such as learning something new or building relationships, allow recovery from work stress and promote feeling energized at work. Non-work related activities, however, such as checking personal email or running errands, are linked to lower energy.15
Benefits of the Employee microBreak Increased or Sustained • Productivity • Concentration • Energy • Positive Mood • Satisfaction • Commitment • Physical & Mental Health ACTIVE PHYSICALACTIVITY RELAXATION Decreased • Fatigue • Negative Mood • Job Stress • Accidents & Injuries • Muscular-skeletal Discomfort • Healthcare Costs • Absenteeism SOCIALIZING MEDITATION UNDER 10 MINUTES RECREATIONAL READING REST ERGONOMIC WORKPLACE DESIGNS CAN PREVENT NEARLY 40% OF OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES,17 AND REDUCE HEALTHCARE COSTS, ABSENTEEISM AND TURNOVER18 LESS THAN 25% OF FULL-TIME WORKERS IN MANUFACTURING HAVE FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS19 ONE IN SEVEN U.S. PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS DEPENDS ON THE U.S. MANUFACTURING BASE.16 Comfortable Furniture • Healthy Food & Beverage Options • Naturalistic Settings Activity-specific Spaces
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Questions? PLEASE CONTACT: ? Rachel S. Permuth, PhD, MSPH. • National Director of Research • Sodexo (240) 328-7810 • firstname.lastname@example.org