Man taking a break from work and talking to a colleague
Man taking a break from work and talking to a colleague

Should we be taking microbreaks throughout the day?

Taking brief pauses away from your desk could help keep energy levels up, discovers Prudence Wade.

Prudence Wade
Friday 09 April 2021 10:56

We’ve all had one of those days when you just can’t seem to keep your eyes open at your desk, and you’re struggling to get anything done.

Most of us will try and push through the fatigue and power on, but new research suggests we might be better off taking a microbreak instead. Microbreaks are short pauses away from your desk or workstation, a time to do anything from having a snack and chatting to a coworker, to working on a puzzle or doing some stretches.

The new paper is based on two studies looking into the impact of taking microbreaks during the working day and how they can boost energy levels – particularly when you’re already tired.

Sophia Cho co-author of the paper and assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University said: “A microbreak is, by definition, short. But a five-minute break can be golden if you take it at the right time. Our study shows that it is in a company’s best interest to give employees autonomy in terms of taking microbreaks when they are needed – it helps employees effectively manage their energy and engage in their work throughout the day.”

The results from both studies suggest people who were already tired could maintain their energy levels by taking frequent microbreaks. This had a knock-on effect on productivity and ability to do your job – understandable, as it’s hard to perform well when your energy is at an all-time low.

Cho said: “Basically, microbreaks help you manage your energy resources over the course of the day – and that’s particularly beneficial on days when you’re tired.”

There are other potential benefits too. You might find that getting up from your desk – instead of slowly slouching until you’re basically horizontal – will help reset your posture, and taking brief screen breaks could help reduce eye strain.

You could max out the benefits even more by choosing your break activity wisely – stretching will help combat the effects of sitting stationary all day, and calling a friend for a quick catch-up could boost your mood and put you in a more positive frame of mind going back to work.

Pandemic burnout is a real thing many of us are facing – maybe taking brief but regular moments out could help combat it?