Topic: Emotional Intelligence, Job Performance, Wellness
Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: Making the break count: An episodic examination of recovery activities, emotional
experiences, and positive affect displays
Do your customer service employees do work-like activities during their breaks or maybe
even not take their breaks at all? If you care about their ability to ‘put on the happy face’ for customers, then research by Trougakos, Beal, Green & Weiss (2008) says that breaks are important.
For those of you do-it-all-and-never-stop types out there, preparing for other work activities and running errands do not count as breaks. Real breaks are activities that don’t take much effort, like socializing or relaxing. The authors found that service employees who took real breaks during their work day were more likely to experience positive emotions, less likely to experience negative emotions, and – get this – more likely to display higher amounts of positive affect (e.g., smiling at customers). Um, yeah, that’s customer service performance right there.
The theoretical idea behind the authors’ findings is that continuous emotion regulation may deplete employees’ emotional resources and that taking real breaks during the day may help replenish those resources. The authors supported this idea by finding that real breaks were related to positive affect displays even when the effects of positive emotions were removed from the analysis. Of course, more research needs to be done in this area, but previous work (Sonnentag, 2001 & Westman & Eden, 1997) has supported the value of studying this topic in terms of work outcomes.
These authors found that (say it with me now) real breaks can reduce cases of emotional exhaustion and burnout. So, the moral of the story is that it’s OK to let your employees stop every so often. In fact, encouraging them to kick up their feet here and there may be the perfect way to let them recharge their emotional batteries.