NATIONAL NEWS

Microbreaks can increase your well-being, but only if you do these types of activities, experts say

Aug 31, 2022, 4:54 PM | Updated: Sep 6, 2022, 11:13 am
Microbreaks can be beneficial for some types of work but not others, experts say. (Dragos Condrea/A...
Microbreaks can be beneficial for some types of work but not others, experts say. (Dragos Condrea/Adobe Stock via CNN)
(Dragos Condrea/Adobe Stock via CNN)

(CNN) — 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.

The type of work matters

The studies included in the analysis looked at how breaks of 10 minutes or less impacted either students in a laboratory setting or employees in a workplace setting, and originated from the United States, Netherlands, China, Austria, Germany, Australia, Brazil and Japan.

Microbreaks appeared to only positively affect workers doing certain kinds of tasks.

Study participants engaged in routine or creative work benefited from taking short breaks, according to the report.

Routine tasks are activities done with a high level of automation that don’t require a person to use their full brain capacity. This can cause the mind to wander to other work or non-work-related to-dos, increasing the chances of a mistake, the analysis noted.

A break can decrease the risk of mistakes and refocus the worker’s attention on the job at hand, according to the report.

Creative tasks require a person to search for information in their brain relevant to what they’re doing while suppressing ideas that are not on topic, according to the analysis.

Short breaks allow the worker to focus on an activity that is different than the one they’re working on, which can increase flexibility and improve creative performance, the study authors found.

However, cognitively demanding tasks, work that requires a high level and quantity of brain power, did not show significant performance improvement with microbreaks, according to the analysis.

The studies revealed that, for people in those situations, a short break could replenish vigor, but not fully replenish the mental resources needed to complete the task.

Not all breaks are created equal

Recovery activities that were unrelated to the job showed higher levels of emotional improvement compared with work-related breaks, according to the analysis.

Unrelated activity could include physical exercise, such as walking, which the researchers found to be associated with decreased fatigue and an increase in positive emotions. Watching a short video clip was linked to better recovery and performance, according to the analysis.

Work-related microbreaks like checking email or helping a colleague were associated with decreased sleep quality and well-being as well as increased negative mood, according to the report.

Whatever workers decide to do on their break, it should be something they enjoy, said Emily Hunter, professor and department chair at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Hunter was not involved in the study.

In her research, she found people who participated in activities they preferred during their breaks were associated with a high recovery level after the break.

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.


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

The Sanderson sisters' "Hocus Pocus" cottage. Kathy Najimy said that she and her costars, Bette Mid...
Emmy Abbassi, CNN

Stay in the ‘Hocus Pocus’ house for only $31

The Sanderson sisters of "Hocus Pocus" fame are inviting guests to stay at their creepy cottage in the remote woods of Salem, Massachusetts, this Halloween season.
1 day ago
UVALDE, TEXAS - JUNE 17: The Robb Elementary School sign is seen covered in flowers and gifts on Ju...
Stella Chan and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Uvalde parents have filed a federal lawsuit against gun manufacturers, and others

Uvalde parents sue gun manufacturers and other entities.
1 day ago
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 2...
Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

Dow plunges and is back in a bear market

The third quarter is about to end and investors are wishing the past nine months good riddance. Stocks fell Thursday, giving up Wednesday's big gains. The Dow was down almost 650 points, or 2.1%, in midday trading.
1 day ago
Brenda Brennan sits next to a boat that pushed against her apartment when Hurricane Ian passed thro...
ADRIANA GOMEZ-LICON, Associated Press

Many trapped in Florida as Ian heads toward South Carolina

Rescue crews are wading through water and using boats to rescue Florida residents stranded in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
1 day ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a celebration of the 1990 passage of the Americans...
ZEKE MILLER and DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

Biden to visit Florida when ‘conditions allow’ after storm

President Joe Biden says the entire United States "hurts" along with the people of Florida after Hurricane Ian flooded communities across the state.
1 day ago
Ukrainian troops ride upon a repaired Russian tank in a wooded area outside the city on September 2...
LOLITA C. BALDOR and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press

US announces $1.1 billion more in military aid for Ukraine

The U.S. will provide an additional $1.1 billion in aid to Ukraine, with funding for about 18 more advanced rocket systems and other weapons to counter drones that Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Microbreaks can increase your well-being, but only if you do these types of activities, experts say