They are after your coffee breaks. How dare they even thinking about that? They, in this context, meaning your employer. Are they going to forbid smoke breaks next? Do they want to chain me to that desk or what? Let’s dive into this subject and have a look at recent happenings, near-future plans and some laws around this.
New ways of HR or just terrible ideas?
We are recently seeing some funny hiccups in HR and especially in micro-managing breaks of staff, like using the restroom. It’s not clear why some organizations seem to change back into a way-outdated kind of managing, but it is happening around us. In this article we are concentrating on the activity of getting a coffee or having a coffee break in the same building. Going out and meet someone over a cup of coffee is not in scope of the points discussed here.
Failing leaders and non-managing managers are looking to turn over bad reports with questionable ideas. One such idea is to have staff check out from their work clock when going to fetch a good old cup of coffee. Will that put the numbers right?
Ok let’s have a look at the employer perspective. When my employees are having a break, they are unlikely to be productive at the same time. I would agree to that much personally. But what if folks meet over a 5 minute coffee to discuss something business related, rather than booking an hour in the meeting room, with a couple of others? This will cost you a lot more and might have a similar outcome. They could as well have the meeting while going for a walk to revitalize themselves. But will it have a positive outcome on productivity or some unwanted side effects to put employees on the clock?
Possible negative outcome
What could be the negative outcome of enforcing a clock-out for getting some coffee? People might as well cease to have coffee breaks or if they do, they won’t talk about business anymore. They would set up meetings regardless of their caliber (this costs you money), occupy meeting rooms (this costs you money), and spend a lot more time there (and this costs you money again) talking about work than they would have needed over their usual coffee break. Also how are you going to establish such a break-clock? Maybe the administrative overhead takes more time than just grabbing the coffee. Cutthroat collaboration?
Dehydration kills vitality, quality and productivity
Taking it one step further on a biological level, staff could consume less liquids and dehydrate. This would lead to bad vitality and also bad work results over time. What do you want to do if you notice something like that? Having someone walk around giving them water? What would that cost? No-go on this strategy, move along.
Legal and common sense?
If you see the evil in coffee breaks, you have a serious leadership and entrepreneurial problem that runs deeper than just the coffee break. Of course there could be bad egg examples wherein certain individuals keep spending a lot of time getting coffee or drinking it in a crash area. Such cases need to be handled entirely isolated from your other staff. You should also allow equal break tolerance between getting coffee, having a smoke, praying, and other activities that are not directly work related but could be.
Here’s what the Department of Labor of the United States defines on their webpage: “… when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that would be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime was worked.” Did you know that? What else? “Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.”
“You had one job…”
As a manager of people you have some operational and some administrative tasks but one of the core reasons why you are there is to clear the way for your team to be able to do their work. You are doing your job, so they can do theirs. You are meant to “enable”, support and just clear the way, not make up funny reports and knock out their professional behavior. Analyzing for something like the chance to improve the situation by cutting coffee breaks might not be the best thing to do.
What do you think? Are they after your coffee break? Are you already clocking-out when leaving the desk? Do you have other experiences or opinions to share? We’d love to hear your voice. Drop a comment in the feedback area below. Many thanks for reading!