No More Coffee Breaks for You! The Micro-Manager Strikes Again!


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 look at recent happenings, near-future plans, and some laws around this.

New ways of HR or just terrible ideas?

We recently see some funny hiccups in HR, especially in micro-managing staff breaks, 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 It’s not clear why some organizations seem to change back into a way-outdated kind of managing, but it is happening around us.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 concentrate on 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 the 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 fetching a good old coffee cup. Will that put the numbers, right?

Employer’s view

Ok, let’s have a look at the employer’s perspective. When my employees are having a break, they are unlikely to be productive at the same time. I would agree with 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?

Angry Man with Coffee Crop

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 fewer 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 workweek 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 you are there is to clear the way for your team to do their work. You are doing your job so that they can do theirs. You are meant to “enable” support and clear the way, not make up funny reports and knock out their professional behavior. Analyzing something like the chance to improve the situation by cutting coffee breaks might not be the best thing.

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!

Photo credit: Guian BolisayChristian Pichler / Christopher Isak

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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