The 7% solution – Rest allowances and breaks – Tip 4 -

So by now everyone of your workforce could be ‘at work’ for an extra 20 minutes per shift. Think what you could do with that extra capability?

Because if you have followed the first three tips you could be more than halfway towards hitting your 7% target. In the first article I advised you to use your higher performers as the benchmark and look to improve performances at the lower end of the scale, and secondly to validate your production targets. Don’t assume that because you see a ‘normal’ distribution of low and high performers that this means your targets must be ok. In the second article I demonstrated how the frequency of unexpected events could be used as an alert signal for you and your team to act to reduce ‘lost’ time.

Rest allowances & breaks

Moving on to the next segment and the next productivity improvement step towards the 7% solution, let’s now look at rest allowances and breaks.

Rest allowances are made up of a combination of elements. If a company allows one 10 minute break over an 8 hour shift, then this amounts to 2.2% of an 8 hour shift that already includes a 30 minute meal break. In addition, allowances are used to account for fatigue, lifting heavy objects, standing, and, of course, comfort breaks. In this example 0.4 hours or 25 minutes has been allowed. Rest allowances, taken across the shift allow operatives to maintain consistent levels of performance while they are working. This means operatives being free to break the routine every so often.


In super-sized warehouses and multi-functional sites managing the time that operatives use to rest has become more of a challenge. Operatives may be walking longer distances to go to and from the work space, to the canteen, to washrooms or to smoke areas. Meal breaks may also be extended if there are long queues.

Your challenge is to make it easier for operatives to manage their own time and to stay within acceptable limits. Talk to your staff about the facilities and how to make them more accessible. Also, set expectations when it comes to time management from the start to the end of the shift.

Tip #4

You could use systematic transactional data (WMS or time and attendance) to evaluate gaps in shift records; how long is the average break time, how long it takes before operatives start their first task and the time between the last task and the end of shift? Look for anomalies that your operations managers can investigate, and aim to resolve the cause of issues and not just the symptoms. But don’t jump to conclusions, always look to validate data analysis with observation before you identify a potential issue.

After your initial investigations you will identify patterns of behaviours. Use these to develop and standardise your approach to managing ‘time management’ across your teams. As with contingency allowances, you are much more likely to able to tackle and reduce excessive ‘lost’ time.

You need to allow your staff to perform by creating the right environment, and you also need to incentivise them to perform by managing expectations and setting standards.