How to have a more enjoyable and productive work day
A recent study involving call center employees found that short impromptu breaks, called micro-breaks, designed to relax or socialize for a bit, increased job outlook, energy and enthusiasm of the associates, which happened to also increase sales. These micro-breaks are defined as totally voluntary mini breaks that employees can take whenever they need, outside of the typical lunch and twice daily 15-minute mandated breaks.
The coauthor of this study, YoungAh Park, with the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations, stated “micro-breaks didn’t directly benefit performance, but they did so indirectly though their impact on the employee’s positive emotions.”
In another of her studies, micro-breaks were linked with reduced stress, in-turn lowering negative moods and emotions over the course of the day.
While Park’s research did not define a length of time for these micro-breaks, her research suggests that when people begin to feel frazzled, worn-down or overwhelmed, that’s the time to have a non-work-related conversation with a co-worker, listen to music or take a quick walk. It’s not the time to push through on a work task or even to make a to-do list.
This isn’t the first research to support her findings. In a 2016 study from Baylor University, researchers discovered that those who take breaks during the workday experience improvements in energy, concentration and task motivation. They are also more satisfied with their jobs.
“We also found health benefits,” says Emily Hunter, first author of the study and an associate professor of management at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “People who took frequent short breaks experienced fewer headaches, less eye strain and lower rates of back pain.”
In addition, research from Harvard Business School has linked short workplace breaks to lower rates of employee burnout.
“These studies show a clear correlation with micro-breaks and improved cognition as well as emotional well-being,” says Dr. Rian Rowles, a psychiatrist affiliated with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Even if there is not yet evidence of improved performance, it seems clear that better cognition and better sense of well-being would be associated with employees who are more satisfied with their job. “
So, if you’re feeling frazzled and need a respite from the stresses of a hectic work day, take a micro-break as needed. But if you’re looking for a friendly chat and your co-worker is deep in concentration, don’t interrupt. The Harvard study showed that even short diversions in the middle of tasks that require deep focus can lead to a 50 percent drop in productivity. Go get some fresh air instead.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”