Give Me a (Lunch) Break!
Author: Hadas Lahav, Product Line Director
Have you ever found yourself looking at your watch at 9:00 am wondering if it was lunchtime yet? Well, if you have, you’re not alone. Many times the lunch break is the highlight of our workday. We like taking our break at a convenient time and in a convenient place, such as our favorite restaurant. We don’t like days where we need to squeeze in a 15 minute run to the cafeteria, eat at our desk, or worst of all, eat while driving. The above applies whether you are an office worker or a field employee. Whatever your job is, your lunch break is an important part of your day.
The daily break is also an important element for any service organization. Field employees typically spend between 10% – 15% of their working hours on their lunch break. If this time is not managed properly, it can have a major impact on field force utilization. In addition, work regulations must be met and field employees should be kept happy — and properly fed.
When planning lunch breaks, a service organization faces conflicting forces. On one hand it has to adhere to the limitations which are dictated by the unions and regulators, and on the other hand it has to maximize the utilization of the field employees and leave room for unexpected changes to the daily schedule. The ability to comply with field employee preferences is also a great bonus.
When it comes to work execution, additional considerations must take place. First and foremost: visibility. The ability to view the planned lunch break on the scheduling board, as well as providing relevant input to the field employees is crucial. Lunch break visibility provides the dispatcher with a better sense of control over the daily schedule and provides the field employee with a peace of mind that they will get their break when they need it.
After visibility is achieved, the next level in reaching an optimal schedule is the ability to reschedule the break if and when needed. This can be due to an emergency task, or in order to make better use of idle time. When rescheduling the break, it is important to keep it as a “floating break” in order to allow for further optimization to take place.
Finally, it should be possible for the field employee to report the lunch break start and end times. This information provides clear visibility to the dispatcher and managers with regards to the actual status of field execution. The exact break information can also be used later for various operational reports and for audit purposes.
So next time you look at your watch to check how close your lunch break is, remember that this quick glimpse bears serious implications to your organization.