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This is why you should take microbreaks at work

This is why you should take microbreaks at work
/ zeljkosantrac / E+ / Getty Images

Breaks are considered a luxury in most workplaces, but every good boss understands that breaks are essential if you want to get the best out of your employees. The problem is, most businesses only allow workers to take two 15-minute breaks per shift even though research has proven that frequent, short breaks taken throughout the day can be even more beneficial.

A paper published earlier this month, for example, found that taking daily "microbreaks" can help boost productivity and decrease fatigue at the end of the day.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore, North Carolina State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign surveyed 98 workers in the U.S. and 222 workers in South Korea who were asked to keep a daily journal and assess the quality of sleep they get; the fatigue they feel throughout the workday; and how often they take short, informal breaks while at work. The studies found that more frequent microbreaks led to higher work engagement and better productivity despite a lack of sleep the night before.

"A five-minute break can be golden if you take it at the right time. Our study shows that it is in a company’s best interest to give employees autonomy in terms of taking microbreaks when they are needed – it helps employees effectively manage their energy and engage in their work throughout the day," said co-author Sophia Cho in a news release.

Contrary to popular belief, knowledge work is just as exhausting if not more than hard physical labour and anyone who has ever worked an office job can tell you that hours spent sitting at a desk and staring at a screen puts a strain on your eyes, body, and mind. Even worse, focusing for too long on a task can actually ruin your productivity which is why taking several microbreaks throughout the day is recommended.

“When people think their employer cares about their health, they feel more empowered to freely make decisions about when to take microbreaks and what type of microbreaks to take,” Cho said in the news release. “And that is ultimately good for both the employer and the employee.”​

Some of the benefits of taking microbreaks throughout your workday include:

Returning to work [after a break] more productive.

Higher job satisfaction.

Reduced emotional exhaustion and/or stress.

Reduced injury rates.

Improved morale.

Increased creative thinking.

A different perspective, different outlook – may lead to better decisions..

Lowers your risk of coronary heart disease.

Better work-life balance.


Some easy ways to break up your workday include:

Alternating your job tasks.

Taking a phone call.

Responding to emails to break up a prolonged task.

Stretching at your desk or in your office.

Going to fill up your water bottle.

Relaxation/deep breathing techniques.

Hosting walking or standing meetings.

Walking to a coworkers’ desk to ask them a question rather than calling.



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