Frequent Work Breaks May Improve Health, Stamina

Businessman relaxing at table in conference roomFrequent breaks—for coffee, lunch, walking around the office, stretching, or other distractions—may result in greater stamina and fewer aches and pains for office workers when they return to work, according to a small study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers found morning breaks were particularly helpful for well-being.

According to a 2014 Gallup poll, the average full-time employee works 47 hours a week, suggesting that breaks are few and far between. Just 8% of workers reported working less than 40 hours per week.

More Breaks, Better Employees?

To explore how breaks affect worker well-being, researchers from Baylor University surveyed 95 employees from a single company over the course of a work week. Participants ranged in age from 22 to 67, and most were female. Researchers controlled for factors that could affect employees’ energy, such as quality of sleep the previous night, energy before the break, and how tired participants felt in the morning.

After each break, participants completed surveys about how they spent their breaks and how they felt when they returned to work. Though employees averaged two breaks per day, there were some days when employees did not take a break.

Researchers found employees were more likely to report symptoms of poor health and less energy the longer they went without a break. When employees took a break in the morning, after just a few hours of work, they reported greater energy and concentration. Morning breaks were also associated with fewer health issues, such as back pain, headaches, and eye strain.

Researchers did not directly test whether the breaks caused the improvement in energy or health; this study only established a correlation between frequent breaks and outcomes employers may care about, such as higher job satisfaction, reduced emotional exhaustion, and greater job performance. Because this was a small study conducted at a single employer, it is not clear whether the results apply equally to all workers. The study did not find an ideal number of breaks and did not uncover evidence that a specific type of break—such as for coffee or a nap—is superior to other breaks.

References:

  1. Frequent Work Breaks Improve Health, Stamina: Study. (2015, September 21). Retrieved from http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/work-breaks-improve-health/2015/09/21/id/692504/
  2. Hunter, E. M., and Wu, C. (2015). Give me a better break: Choosing workday break activities to maximize resource recovery. Journal of Applied Psychology. doi:10.1037/apl0000045
  3. Saad, L. (2014, August 29). The “40-hour” workweek is actually longer—by seven hours. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-longer-seven-hours.aspx

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  • solomon

    solomon

    September 21st, 2015 at 4:14 PM

    Heck yeah! More breaks? Count me in!

  • Lane

    Lane

    September 22nd, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    Any time I am able to take a little time off it always gives me the little oomph that I needed to start over and be positive again when I return. I am not that person who is bummed out by little breaks, making it harder for me to get back at it. I am the opposite. Those little breaks, for a few minutes or just for a day, give me a chance to sort of recharge my batteries and feel compelled to get the job done. There is somehting to be said for a company that understand that a little time here and there being away from the job is actually what their employees need to be more productive in the long run.

  • Jack

    Jack

    September 22nd, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    hmmm why do all of us see this but my boss fails to see things this way? To him if you are on the clock then you better be working, he’s not paying us to take a break and goof off. His words, not mine.

  • merleen

    merleen

    September 23rd, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    I think that sometimes employers get a bad rap because I think that there are many individuals who will take advantage of the breaks that they get, stretching them out for as long as possible and caring more about the breaks that they are getting than the work that they are supposed to be doing in between that time.

  • Sofie

    Sofie

    September 23rd, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    Overall more breaks has to lead to better physical health too.

    I mean, it gives you a chance to walk around, move, get up and get away from the desk. Any of us will benefit form doing more than just sitting on our bums all day long!

  • olivia

    olivia

    September 24th, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    I try to get up and move around every hour or so from my desk. I don’t necessarily have to have a break, but I get up and do some things around the office that don’t always involve just sitting at my desk. It’s a nice little change of pace for me every now and then.

  • joey

    joey

    September 24th, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    My only problem with this is that I have some guys who work with me and I swear they are the kind who that if you give them an inch they are gonna take a mile. I think that there would be a lot of supervisors out there just like me who feel the exact same way. You want to treat people right and take good care of them but at the same time it sometimes feels that the more you do for people then the more they tend to take advantage of you.

  • Ms Rene

    Ms Rene

    September 25th, 2015 at 1:10 PM

    We could go back and forth over this all day long but the cold hard fact is that we all work better when we feel appreciated and valued. And one way that employers can do this in a way that we immediately see is to give us the freedom to do our job and do it well, with us doing it on our own time and in our own way. We are all adults, we know how long it takes us to do our job well, and I think that if we are left with a little bit of control over that then they would actually see the workforce become much more competent and productive, not less.

  • Shawn

    Shawn

    September 27th, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    Can’t you see some really horrible boss saying ok you can have more breaks but the workday is gonna be longer?
    Someone out there would do that!

  • lena

    lena

    September 28th, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I have very much been advocating for my boss to get me one of those stand up work spaces. I think that I would feel so much better and probably more energized all day long if I could have something that would let me move aorund but be able to get my work done all at the same time.

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