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What kind of break works for you

March 29, 2023

Researchers at West University of Timisoara, Romania, have combed through 22 studies conducted in recent years on the benefits of micro-breaks to understand how they should be done. The studies included in the analysis assessed how breaks impacted workers in the United States, the Netherlands, China, Austria, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and Japan.

One of the findings was that micro-breaks lasting between 8 seconds and 10 minutes seem to positively affect professionals who perform certain types of tasks, such as routine and creative tasks, because they increase energy levels, vitality, and consequently persistence in the face of obstacles.

The scientists separated the jobs according to the type of activity involved to understand when and how so-called micro-breaks can be beneficial:

Routine jobs 

These are activities that are done with a high level of automation and do not require the person to use all their brain capacity. This can cause the mind to wander to another task or non-work-related subjects, increasing the chances of error. The analysis then observed that a pause can decrease the risk of misunderstanding and redirect the professional’s attention to the activity at hand.

Creative work 

These require the individual to search their brain for relevant information while suppressing ideas that are not part of the activity. Thus, the authors of the study found that short breaks allow the professional to focus on an activity other than the one they are working on, which can increase flexibility and improve creative performance.

Cognitively demanding jobs 

Occupations that demand a high level and amount of brain performance have not shown significant improvement with the help of micro-breaks. Research has revealed that in these cases, a short break may even restore vigor, but it does not supply the mental resources needed to complete the task, suggesting that more exhausting positions may need longer breaks.

“From a practical perspective, these results offer strong support that taking short breaks during working hours is beneficial for individuals’ health and productivity. (…) Managers can support employees’ well-being by encouraging them to take micro-breaks. Such leadership engagement is relevant, considering that many employees still might feel that taking breaks might be perceived as counterproductive behavior. Moreover, organizations could also benefit from training to build personal resources and organizational capacities, learning how and when to engage in efficient energy management and recovery strategies.”, wrote the authors.

Source: West University of Timisoara