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Taking breaks from work are an integral part of corporate survival.
According to latest research, however, professionals may be practicing bad break-taking behaviour – which may be zapping their drive rather than boosting their energy.
Emily Hunter, Ph.D., and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., associate professors of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, surveyed 95 employees (ages 22-67) over a five-day workweek in their latest study in order to plan the most beneficial daily escapes from the job.
“We took some of our layperson hypotheses about what we believed were helpful in a break and tested those empirically in the best way possible,” Hunter said.
“This is a strong study design with strong analyses to test those hypotheses. What we found was that a better workday break was not composed of many of the things we believed. ”
Here are four key findings of the research:
1. Schedule breaks in the morning
Compared to a lunch-hour or mid-afternoon break, the study found a respite earlier in the workday replenishes more resources – energy, concentration and motivation.
“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the study stated.
“Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”
2. “Better breaks” incorporate activities that employees prefer.
A common belief exists that doing things that are non-work-related are more beneficial, Hunter explained.
Based on the study, however, there was no evidence to prove that non-work-related activities were more beneficial.
Simply put, preferred break activities could be things employees preferred and liked to do – including work-related tasks.
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“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do – something that’s not given to you or assigned to you – are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.
3. People who take “better breaks” experience better health and increased job satisfaction.
The employee surveys showed that those employees who took a “better break” (earlier in the day, doing things they preferred) led workers to experience less somatic symptoms, including headache, eyestrain and lower back pain after the break.
The study highlighted these employees also experienced increased job satisfaction and organisational citizenship behaviour as well as a decrease in emotional exhaustion (burnout).
4. Longer breaks are good, but it’s beneficial to take frequent short breaks.
While the study was unable to pinpoint an exact length of time for a better workday break (15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.), the research found that more short breaks were associated with higher resources.
This suggested that employees should be encouraged to take more frequent short breaks to facilitate recovery.
“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” Hunter said.