Microbreaks can increase your well-being, but only if you do these types of activities, experts say.
Eating a snack, going for a walk or scrolling through social media: No matter how you spend them, microbreaks of 10 minutes or less during work can increase vigor while decreasing fatigue, according to a meta-analysis published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers examined 22 studies from the past 30 years and determined short breaks improved worker well-being, which they defined as having energy to complete tasks without being exhausted by the end of the workday, said study author Irina Macsinga, associate professor in the psychology department at the West University of Timișoara in Romania
Breaks during the workday are often seen as the worker being lazy or unproductive, which can make people feel guilty for taking them, Macsinga said. The goal of her report was to prove that short breaks are valuable for employees and organizations alike.
“It seemed quite unintuitive to have a full week and to wait for the weekend just to feel better, or to have a hard day at the office and to count the hours until evening,” she said.
How often should you take a microbreak?
The analysis did not examine how often people should pause for microbreaks, but Macsinga recommended workers take them as frequently as they need to.
“When taking a short break when we feel the need to, we can notice that new ideas start to flow easily again,” she said.
The frequency of breaks needed may depend on the type of work a person does, Hunter said.
Physically demanding work will have different break needs than cognitive work, she said. Creative tasks may also require longer breaks than repetitive activities, she added.
In her research, Hunter found short breaks often throughout the day generally were beneficial.
“Much like we need to keep drinking water to stay hydrated, we also need to take frequent, short breaks to stay focused,” she said.