Work breaks really can make a difference
I’ve never been very good at taking breaks.
When I’m working at home or the office, I just keep on trekking. That’s not to say I won’t check my phone for messages, respond to texts or WhatsApp queries or take a gander at Instagram posts.
But these are brief moments lasting maybe a minute, while I’m still working at my laptop.
To truly walk away from the keyboard, to stretch my legs for 15 minutes, that’s rare, especially on deadline days.
As for lunch, I often eat at my desk, though I find now that I’m back downtown more often, I do like to get outside to grab a sandwich – and then eat at my desk.
I know I’m far from alone: Surveys have shown that many people just can’t stop working, even when they should be taking a break.
But I definitely appreciate the breaks, and both physically and mentally I feel the benefits of shutting off the work brain temporarily. I come back to the job somewhat refreshed and re-energized.
And judging by a recent study from Simon Fraser University in B.C., I should strive to keep those breaks going.
That’s because work breaks should be seen as “recovery opportunities” that foster employee well-being and boost performance.
However, the type of break can make a real difference, according to the researchers.
For example, engaging in physical exercise can lead to increased well-being among knowledge workers. Also, taking a nap can improve task performance and physical well-being.
The timing, autonomy and employee compulsiveness can also alter the effectiveness of micro-breaks. For example, while taking social breaks is generally good for workers, having “forced” social breaks may harm their psychological well-being.
“When employees see work breaks as useful and necessary, they are less likely to skip or shorten their break,” says researcher Zhanna Lyubykh, assistant professor of management and organization studies at the Beedie School of Business.
Similarly, a recent study from West University of Timisoara in Romania found that “micro breaks” of 10 minutes can be helpful, particularly if they are not work-related, according to Medical News Today.
“Physical activities such as stretching and exercise were associated with increased positive emotions and decreased fatigue,” write the authors.
In reviewing the findings, clinical psychologist Katie Moore said employees benefit from taking regular breaks between tasks.
“Employees show less fatigue and greater energy and enthusiasm after taking microbreaks.”
As long as it doesn’t come across as quiet quitting, I’m all for the downtime if it means more “up” time.