In our July/August HR news - work breaks can be a contentious issue, sleeping on the job, holiday planning and how to get it right, and why open plan offices can be bad for your health.

Breaks can be a contentious issue

Things that annoy work colleagues part 1 - smoking breaks

In 2017 a Japanese marketing firm decided to give non-smoking staff an additional six days holiday a year to make up for the time smokers take for cigarette breaks. Some Canadian companies are considering doing the same according to Global News who also commented...

"On average, each smoker costs an employer around $4,200 in productivity each year, according to 2013 statistics by the Conference Board of Canada. The study also found $3,800 of that total was due to unauthorized smoke breaks and $414 due to increased absences (through illness)."

Breaks are important for employee well being and general safety

In May, Peter Lee a railway signalman at Arundel Station in Sussex was sacked for taking a break. He'd worked at the station for 44 years. He's said to have told his bosses 4 days prior to the incident that he would take the break. No alternative cover was found and he was dismissed as he started closing up the signal box (which would have meant train disruption during a rush hour period).

The sacking hit the headlines in July, but may have been part of a longer running issue with Network Rail about breaks. In 2015 Mr Lee had won the right for he and his co-workers to take a 20 minute break on eight hour early or late shifts in-line with Working Time Regulations. The RMT union is set to appeal the previous tribunal ruling regarding the sacking which went in favour of Network Rail.

Sleeping on the job

Things that annoy work colleagues part 2 - falling asleep at work

Whilst some hi-tech companies positively encourage sleeping on the job, in most workplaces a colleague falling asleep annoys the heck out of more alert employees.

In 2017 BBC News staff came under fire (from The Sun) for sleeping on the job, as one irate colleague is said to have observed, it’s very difficult working next to someone who is snoring. Another staffer is quoted as saying they were allowed an hour and a half break during the night shift but some took much longer.

For sleep-in workers, for example in the Care sector, Personnel Today highlighted a recent Court of Appeal ruling which overturned an earlier EAT decision in Mencap vs Tomlinson Blake.

The court of appeal ruled that carers who sleep at a clients home (in this instance), technically on-call, are not entitled to the minimum wage whilst asleep. They are available for work but not actually working. Many employers in the Care sector breathed a huge sigh of relief at not having to pay current and past workers back-pay which the previous EAT decision would have required them to do.

A hard-earned break

New Zealand has just introduced paid leave for people who want to move on from an abusive relationship. People will be allowed up to 10 days paid leave to sort themselves out. In the past they may have lost their jobs or had to look for lower paid employment. UK Charity Women's Aid has said it will push for similar legislation in the UK.


Things that annoy work colleagues part 3 - holidays

With holidays now in full swing for many, we hope that you've got your holiday calendars and resource planning sorted. As Ryanair found last year, holiday planning can go horribly wrong, (although there were some underlying reasons, such as having to move their holiday year, which exacerbated the situation). While they are sufficiently profitable to take a hit on 2,500 cancelled flights, and 400,000 unhappy customers, other businesses might struggle.

Businesses which have an always-on culture, where people are afraid to take their full holiday allocation, and if they do take a break are never out of touch with the office, are starting to be seen as dinosaurs in some countries.

The work culture in Japan and the US in particular is seen to promote 'holiday shaming'. This article from Entrepreneur magazine, a US website, highlights ways in which people should be positively 'forced' to take holidays, ideas include one company which has a scheme to help people save for holidays.

In Japan the government has designated 17 national public holidays which have been designed to try to get people to take breaks - it isn't really working yet though as employers don't have to let staff take the holiday or pay them on the day off.

Open plan working is best - or is it?

Things that annoy a lot of employees part 4 - open plan offices

Business psychologist Caroline Gourlay muses on recent research by Harvard Business School and Harvard University into open plan offices and the supposed rise in productivity they bring, in fact the reverse is true, (she also dispels some other work myths in her latest article). So whilst open plan offices may save businesses substantial amounts of money in terms of occupied space, productivity and communication decreases. In a more public situation where phone and face-to-face conversations can easily be overheard, people prefer to email each other.

Other studies have found that some people were more likely to comfort eat in open plan office situations as people often feel more stressed, and were more likely to be off sick both through stress or presenteeism, a sick colleague can quickly pass on a lurgy in more open environments.

And as Pilita Clark writes in the FT having your boss in the mix as well is not always a great idea!


Chronologic time and attendance system is designed to simplify holiday and break management. The availability screen shows people with booked absence against overall resource available, you can easily see if there are likely to be resourcing issues. The system can also flag up when too many holidays have been requested before authorisation, and if an employee is requesting more holiday than they are entitled to, so any potential conflicts can be sorted.

However you want to manage breaks, the system can deal with them. Get in touch to find out how our attendance system could help your organisation run more efficiently.

For more information about our solutions and products call 01761 410015 or email