We want to make something perfectly clear – when it looks like we’re just goofing off, we’re working. We promise.
Germans and Americans have very different concepts of what a work day is comprised of. Working in a German environment, we’ve learned that very little time is set aside solely to boost creativity or de-stress. You arrive at work promptly at 8:30am. You determine the most efficient way to boot up your computer, go to the kitchen for coffee (black, no sugar, no cream), and then return to your desk in time to check your inbox the moment the computer’s desktop comes to life. You work for 4.5 hours, go to lunch promptly at 1:00pm to return precisely at 2:00pm — not a moment later. You then work for exactly three more hours, rarely, if ever, leaving your computer screen, and pack up your things promptly at 6:00pm to head home. Sure, a lot gets done, but we’ll have a very difficult time believing it if you say that your brain isn’t fried.
Have you heard of nap rooms? Progressive American companies have nap rooms. Foosball tables. Old school Mario Cart on Nintendo 64. Even if you’re looking at an American company more on the boring side of things, you at least have water-cooler chat, an integral part of every hour’s break. Somehow, despite the distractions (although some would argue because of), things get done.
A study out of Cornell University encourages workers, namely computer users, to take frequent breaks. The breaks increased productivity and accuracy. The aim is to work smarter rather than harder. For those in more creative fields, it is imperative to get away from your work and do things that completely change the pattern of your brain waves for a while, in order to be able to start fresh the next time you sit down to your task at hand. Therefore, it’s not just an American thing. It’s science.
However, it can be hard for Americans like us to adapt to the German style of a work day. If you employ American workers, you may have noticed that they get fidgety, or that their mood takes a nose dive after a few straight hours of work. It is important that, as a manager, you both allow and encourage your workers to take regular breaks.
So the next time it seems as though your American colleague is taking too many breaks, or spending too much time making real-life renditions of LOL Cats (it’s happened, we can’t lie), remind yourself that maybe she’s onto something.