Ever skipped lunch because you had too much work to do? This week’s tip demonstrates that productivity—and team morale—can actually increase when we take regular breaks.
During the peak of the pandemic, as Forsyth Humane Society was slowly reopening to the public, Executive Director Mark Neff was concerned for his team. They were already working longer hours with a reduced staff—and though it was good to open their doors to the community, it would bring additional stressors and changes for staff and the animals.
To maintain a positive work environment, Neff made a bold move. “I decided to close both our locations from 1pm to 2pm every day, and started mandatory lunch breaks,” he says. “This would give the animals a break from everyone, and allowed the staff to decompress from the morning hustle and have adequate time to prepare for the second half of the day.”
Neff reports that the public was fine with the change. “It’s not unusual for doctor’s offices and other agencies to be closed for a lunch period,” he says. “Animal welfare should be no different.”
His team, on the other hand, took a little longer to adapt. “Initially, it was met with a bit of resistance,” says Neff, “which, to be honest, was a surprise.” When he talked to his staff to find out more, he quickly realized it was the “programming” of animal welfare at work that many of us in the industry know so well: “We have too much to do—I don’t have time to take a break.”
Yet Neff stayed steadfast in his endeavor to make sure all employees—no matter what position or level—take lunch during this timeframe. “Fast-forward just a bit, and now it’s one of the most appreciated actions we have taken as an agency and utilized by all,” he reports. “It just took time for people to realize that performance is improved when they take much-needed breaks.”
And as an unexpected bonus, the mandatory closing has improved service. “Since everyone goes to lunch at the same time and comes back at the same time, we’re not straddling lunches and leaving our agency down 1-5 people at any given moment. It’s a complete win-win.”
Now You Try It
Could this work at your agency? Neff encourages you to give it a trial run. “It really has made a noticeable difference,” he says. “All you need is to be willing to try.”
Photo: Forsyth Humane/Facebook