Although the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that companies provide breaks most companies do because they recognize that a bit of down time is good for employee morale and productivity. Now researchers have also found that breaks are also good for you mental bottomline.
According to science writer Marghi Merzenich a recent study has shown the importance of rest, it improves memory. Reporting on a study published in the journal Neuron Merzenich says “researchers found that the subjects who took a break from learning retained more of what they learned, whereas those who didn’t rest had more trouble with recall”. Actually what the report said was “Our data show enhanced functional connectivity between the hippocampus and a portion of the lateral occipital complex (LO) during rest following a task with high subsequent memory compared to pretask baseline resting connectivity.” In other words, you remember things better if you take a short break after studying something than if you don’t.
If you are doing work that requires remembering complex tasks take a brief break periodically. If you are an employer and your employees do work that requires exercising memory you may want to incorporate short breaks into that learning process. This may be very important in training sessions. As new employees are being taught new tasks and processes, taking small breaks may enhance that mental bottomline. You may find they learn and retain at a higher level. I envision just leaning back and pausing and letting the information sink in. The break doesn’t have to be long.
As I mentioned at the outset the FLSA does not require that an employer provide breaks. However, if you do, and they are under 20 minutes, then they have to be paid breaks. So don’t go docking your employees for the breaks that actually benefit the company.
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