9 tips for managing staff breaks in the service industry


Managing staff breaks should be a relatively straightforward process. But, when in charge of a busy service-orientated business and a large team of shift workers, coordinating breaks can easily become your worst nightmare.

Finding a balance between the legal requirement for breaks, employee productivity and business demand isn’t easy. Breaks are an essential part of the working day, and there are many good reasons why your staff need them.

In the service industry meeting customer demand is critical for success. It requires flexibility and forward planning. Having motivated staff to meet demand at your busiest times is vital. Managing staff breaks effectively to keep staff motivated is of equal importance. When staff are given the properly planned breaks they need, they will be able to perform at their best. To keep on top of your breaks rota, follow our 9 tried and tested tips.

  1. Keep up to date with employment laws

Be fully aware of the regulations around rest breaks at work and ensure your staff are given breaks accordingly. If you don’t give your employees enough breaks, their health and safety could be at risk, and you could be breaking the law.

  1. Be clear on break rules

Be sure the rules around breaks are effectively communicated to all employees. If for example, no more than 3 out of 10 workers can be on a break at the same time, ensure you stick to the rules. Also, be clear about times when no staff are allowed to be on a break (your busiest times). Clarity will help you to enforce rules, and for employees to accept them.

  1. Schedule breaks in advance

Just as you schedule the rota in advance, it is well worth the effort of scheduling in breaks in advance too. That way you can plan around staff preferences where possible. You can also ensure enough staff are working through peak service times. Get shift planning and break planning wrong and it will ultimately hurt your business in the form of staff turnover. Planning in advance will help to resolve any work schedule conflicts.

When it comes to people management, scheduling in advance will also save you time. There’s also the added benefit of staff being able to manage their workload better around breaks if they know break times in advance.

  1. Address work-life balance and well-being

Keep a watchful eye out for when staff are overworking. You may have certain staff who willingly taking extra shifts and cut back on breaks. This may help your business in the short-term, but in the long term it is fraught with difficulties. Staff can begin to feel resentful if their extra efforts aren’t rewarded, and working through breaks ultimately impacts health and well-being, and productivity.

The way you manage employee working hours will not only help to manage your business, it can also help workers to balance their responsibilities at both work and home. Helping your workers obtain work-life balance doesn’t just benefit them, it boosts your bottom line. Happy employees are more engaged and more productive.

  1. Listen to your employees

Accommodating staff preferences when it comes to break times isn’t always possible, but it is important that you listen to your staff and try to accommodate requests where possible. It’s also important that you explain to staff why individual preferences can’t always take precedence. Asking your employees about their preferences is a great way to boost employee engagement.

  1. Observe your staff

As well as engaging with your staff to determine needs, be sure to look out for signs your workers’ energies are dipping. Working through breaks and skipping lunch will only have a detrimental effect on productivity later on, and anyway it’s not best practice. If you notice an employee is flagging, and a break isn’t possible, perhaps offer a healthy snack or switch your employee to a different task.

  1. Plan strategically

Aligning the needs of the business with staff preferences for breaks is always going to be tricky. Understanding your business and ensuring a full bank of staff are on shift at busy times comes down to effective staff recruitment and shift planning.

Regularly review how breaks are staggered to accommodate any changes to the staff rota, and any unexpected changes to peak customer times. Strategic planning is essential.

  1. Be generous

Research shows that when an employer works hard to meet employee needs, employee retention rates benefit. The odd unexpected bonus break will show how much you value your staff.

  1. Be flexible

Most importantly, be prepared to be flexible. There will always be times when you have to accommodate staff requests for specific breaks. You’ll also need to move breaks on occasion to suit your business needs. If you show flexibility, its more likely your staff will too.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.