WorkZone: Guilt can keep workers glued to desks

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When that mid­af­ter­noon en­ergy slump hits, what are the op­tions at your of­fice?

A quick trip to the caf­e­te­ria for a fourth cup of cof­fee?

Catch a few winks in the break room?

Take a brisk walk around the block?

Turns out, none of these op­tions pre­vent some work­ers from feel­ing guilty about step­ping away from their desks, a new sur­vey re­veals, even though tak­ing a short break of­ten means greater pro­duc­tiv­ity and job sat­is­fac­tion.

More than one-fourth of re­spon­dents to a March sur­vey of 200 cus­tom­ers by the of­fice sup­ply re­tailer Sta­ples said they do not take a break dur­ing the work­day other than for lunch, and 20 per­cent of those said it’s be­cause they’d feel guilty about leav­ing their worksta­tions.

Chris Cor­renti, gen­eral man­ager for Sta­ples Fa­cil­ity So­lu­tions at Sta­ples Ad­van­tage, the busi­ness-to-busi­ness arm of the Mas­sa­chu­setts com­pany, thinks those re­sponses may not so much re­flect guilt as much as peo­ple just be­ing bus­ier.

With the ar­ray of mo­bile de­vices avail­able to­day, he said, it’s be­com­ing harder to find a few min­utes when a cli­ent or su­per­vi­sor, or per­haps a fam­ily mem­ber, is not try­ing to reach you.

“It’s chal­leng­ing for some peo­ple to take a step away be­cause they feel the need to be as re­spon­sive as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Cer­tain jobs do re­quire con­tin­u­ous con­nec­tiv­ity, Mr. Cor­renti al­lowed, but that can be ad­dressed with a more struc­tured break sched­ule to en­sure work­ers get a few min­utes away while phone calls still get an­swered promptly.

The pay­off, he said, is a health­ier work­place and hap­pier, more pro­duc­tive work­ers.

Em­ploy­ers, too, said they think that tak­ing short breaks is a good idea.

Mr. Cor­renti said em­ploy­ers needn’t fear that em­ploy­ees will take ad­van­tage of a pol­icy of en­cour­ag­ing breaks if they un­der­stand how it ben­e­fits both them­selves and the com­pany. “It’s a win-win.”

A well-fur­nished, well-stocked break room seems to be key, as 58 per­cent of the re­spon­dents said that would en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to take breaks and 76 per­cent said a break room would re­lieve stress and help them un­wind.

The re­sult for work­places, said Mr. Cor­renti, “could change the cul­ture.”

Steve Twedt: stwedt@post-ga­ or 412-263-1963.

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