5 Questions to Ask When Employees Take Prolonged Breaks

Posted by Andrew on May 20, 2019

Absenteeism is a problem all workplaces have to manage. However, attendance problems aren’t limited to employees abusing their sick leave or calling out without notice on a regular basis. Smaller problems, such as tardiness, skipping out early, or excessively long lunch breaks can erode productivity and staff morale.

Long lunches can be particularly hard to notice since they occur in the middle of the day. Many employees take their lunch break at their leisure and the time can shift from day to day depending on meetings, projects deadlines, and more. Companies that allow for flexible work hours may have an even harder time noticing the long lunch breaks since employees arrive and leave at various hours.

Even so, there are several steps employers can take to rectify the issue without revoking the flexibility the rest of the staff enjoys and doesn’t misuse. Before approaching the employee, managers should try to identify possible explanations before jumping to biased conclusions. The following questions can help provide insight:

  1. Has the employee recently taken on more challenging work?
  2. Has a major life change occurred for the employee such as a new child, marriage, or family member moving in with them?
  3. Are employees aware of who to talk to when they are overwhelmed or unsure of their responsibilities?
  4. Do your employees have the tools they need to complete their work?
  5. Does the company’s culture encourage open lines of communication?

Answering these questions can tell management a great deal before even speaking with the employee. It is quite possible the problem lies more with the company culture than the employee if the individual feels unable to ask questions or communicate with their boss.

3 Likely Reasons for Long Breaks

While every employee’s situation is unique, a few common scenarios most often account for why employees take long lunches or frequent breaks during the day.

  1. There is a health issue or family concern. If an employee opts to share this information, employers should approach the situation with understanding and compassion. There may be federally mandated leave options for the employee as well to help them address the issue effectively before returning to work.
  2. They don’t feel challenged. Simple boredom can result in an hour-long lunch stretching into an hour and a half. If employees find their work to be dull and uninspiring, they aren’t going to feel compelled to return to the workplace. If that’s the case, offering these employees professional development opportunities or discussing increasing their responsibilities can be a step in the right direction.
  3. They are overwhelmed. If the employee recently took on new projects or responsibilities, the long breaks may be a way for him or her to escape from the new stressors. Discuss the challenges with the employee to identify easy to remove roadblocks or develop better work habits to help the individual manage his or her workload more effectively.

Ignoring attendance problems never ends well. In fact, other employees will notice the lack of response and will either grow resentful or emulate the behavior themselves. Implementing a robust absence reporting program can help identify attendance issues before they become a major concern as well as reduce absenteeism. To learn more, contact the experts at Actec.