Breaks at Work: How and When to Take Them

Pharmacy students on rotations should strive for shorter yet more frequent mid-morning breaks, as new research suggests they are the most optimal way to recharge at work.

Pharmacy students on rotations should strive for shorter yet more frequent mid-morning breaks, as new research suggests they are the most optimal way to recharge at work.

Two Baylor University researchers surveyed 95 employees ages 22 to 67 over a 5-day workweek. The participants recorded each break that they took, including those for lunch, coffee, personal e-mails, and socializing.

The average worker took 2 breaks per day, according to the researchers.

One of the key findings was that a mid-morning break might be better than breaks taken later in the day. Earlier breaks allowed for improved resources like energy, concentration, and motivation, which can be used to power through the rest of the workday.

“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 authors stated. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”

The researchers also found that breaks involving activities that the person enjoyed led to better recovery, improved health, and increased job satisfaction. Those who took breaks early in the day that were also enjoyable were less likely to have headaches, eyestrain, and lower back pain afterwards.

Shorter yet more frequent breaks were linked with improved resources, as well, so the researchers suggested that employees should recharge more often for shorter periods of time to recover more efficiently.

“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to 0% before you charge it fully to 100%, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” study author Emily Hunter, PhD, said in a press release.

These study results were published in Journal of Applied Psychology.