Our last poll was on breaks at work.
By far the most popular answer, with 44% of the vote, was taking mini-breaks throughout the day to talk to coworkers or surf the web. This is interesting because it reinforces that many people want to continue to make connections with other people during the day. Whether it is chatting about the weekend with the person in the neighboring cubicle, emailing with old friends, or connecting with people via an online community, most of these breaks are centered around making and maintaining relationships.
The next most popular answer was in many ways the opposite of the previous one with 17.3% of people saying that they take as few breaks as possible during the day in order to get out as quickly as possible. In some ways this seems anti-social but at the same time, the people who answer this way may be attempting to improve their relationships with family or friends outside of work.
Particularly in jobs that require a lot of people in terms of workload and time, people need to be careful not to let the job overtake their lives and to maintain a balance between the job and family/outside social life. In an ideal world there would be time to interact with coworkers and be home in time to have dinner with the kids but in reality this is not always the case and people need to make sure the non-work side of their lives gets adequate attention.
14.7% of respondents said that they take a few breaks at defined periods during the day. We did not ask whether these defined breaks were the result of the way the workday was structured or because of routine on the part of the employee. In both cases, people with routine and scheduled breaks tend to create community with others with similar schedules even if it is just a friendly smile and nod to a familiar face when making the regular 10 a.m. pilgrimage to the coffee cart.
The last two answers, tied with 12% of the vote each were people who answered that they take a longer lunch break and no smaller breaks and people whose breaks are set by management. Most people in the latter group likely work in areas where somebody needs to be covering at any given time so breaks need to be staggered. This is not ideal for creating relationships between employees but is sometimes necessary depending on the nature of the work.
Breaks during the workday are ultimately an opportunity for employees to step back from the task at hand, take a breath and hopefully regain some of the focus that may have started to dissipate throughout the day. Sometimes breaks can have the additional benefit of creating or helping to maintain community and relationships among coworkers or can help people to build more balance in their lives.