Micro Breaks at Work Can Boost Productivity and Decrease Fatigue

Apr, 2021 - By WMR

Micro Breaks at Work Can Boost Productivity and Decrease Fatigue

Employees are more involved and less mentally drained, according to new research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, when given the ability to take short, impromptu "micro breaks" anytime they feel the need during the workday.

Lunchtime is often the only real break from the monotony of a long workday for many office workers. Even so, according to one survey, more than half of those polled eat lunch at their desk. Employers don't always react positively to employees who appear to take regular micro breaks. It may appear that frequent small talk with coworkers or brief breaks from one's desk indicate an unfocused mind, but a growing body of research is beginning to show that taking small breaks on a regular basis may decrease fatigue, improve well-being, and eventually increase overall job performance.

The new study looked at the attitudes of two groups of office workers: 98 people in the US and 222 people in South Korea. The surveys also inquired about quality of sleep and usual levels of fatigue, in addition to monitoring movements during a given workday. The researchers wanted to see how morning exhaustion, possibly caused by a poor sleep at night, affected the occurrence of micro breaks during the following workday.

Those who were more tired in the morning took more frequent micro breaks, as expected. Importantly, those who took micro breaks said they were more engaged at work and felt less tired at the end of the day. The concept of breaking up a workday into shorter time of focus, interspersed with brief fleeting breaks, can be traced back to a key study from the 1980s. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for the best micro break, this new study suggests that employee independence is critical, allowing people to control their engagement and energy levels throughout the workday.

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