Micro-breaks: how long and how to take breaks at work to be more efficient


Physical activities such as stretching and exercise were associated with increased positive emotions and decreased fatigue (Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)

Who has not surprised themselves during working hours to read and reread a line on the screen without being able to retain its meaning because their mind is racing towards a pending task at home or a project to go out for the next weekend. This will be a good time to take a Pause. But how and for how long must this interval be for it to be restorative? Should it be 10 minutes of conversation with a partner on a series that we are watching? Is a half hour walk around the area better? Are a few minutes of stretching more effective?

A group of experts from the Department of Psychology of the Western University of Timișoara, Romaniadirected by Patricia Albulescuconducted a meta-analysis of 22 studies in which they participated, in total, 2,000 people and published their results in the journal PLOS ONE.

The most striking finding was the effectiveness of what the team called “micro break”referring to break-ins less than 10 minutes, which he considered sufficient to reduce fatigue and regain energy. The benefit of these stops during the working day was verified in all types of work analyzed. This is why “micropauses could be a panacea to promote The well-being during the working day,” the authors said.

Referring to the duration of
Referring to the duration of “micro-breaks” and their impact on well-being and performance, some studies reviewed in the meta-analysis “suggest that recovery effects could be obtained after a very short time” (Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)

But what performances allow these “micro pauses”? In most demanding cognitive tasks, ten minutes of rest did not seem to be enough to restore brain power. If possible, breaks should be taken longer. However, short breaks increased performance in the daily works. Highly automated activities lead to daydreaming and making mistakes, so taking a few minutes of rest helps you refocus, the authors said. The same positive effect was observed in activities Creative: a brief break showed relief in the work at hand, which likely triggers more divergent thinking and some cognitive flexibility that promotes the generation of new ideas.

According to the authors, when it comes to the type of “micro break” to take, it’s best not to use these moments to perform another type of work-related task, such as meeting with a colleague to arrange work for the next one. day or solve a problem with the IT department. The study indicated that performing work-related activities during breaks affects well-being and mood. The best is disconnect completelyfor example, stretching or talking with classmates from a movie, the boys’ school or the latest recital.

A more productive break will be achieved by engaging with a colleague on other non-organizational matters (Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels)
A more productive break will be achieved by engaging with a colleague on other non-organizational matters (Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels)

In this sense, the authors pointed out that “breaks lead to recovery when people engage in activities that reduce the demand on their resources. During work hours, remedial activities may be related to task goals (eg, helping a colleague, establishing a new work-related goal) or may be non-work related (eg, meeting physiological needs , participate in social interactions, etc.) cognitive; relaxing; direct attention to natural elements).

“Overall, work-related micro-rest activities were associated with decreased well-being, decreased sleep quality, and increased negative mood. Physical activities like stretches and exercises were associated with increased positive emotions and decreased fatigue. Relationship activities (for example, getting in touch with friends and family) were associated with a greater sense of vitality. Use of personal social media and games was associated with fewer work-life conflicts, while watching a short film was associated with better recovery and better performance,” the authors said.

The most notable finding concerned the effectiveness of what the team called
The most notable finding concerned the effectiveness of what the team called “microrest”, referring to breaks of less than 10 minutes, which they considered sufficient to reduce fatigue and recover energy.

Referring to the duration of “micro-rests” and their impact on well-being and performance, some studies reviewed in the meta-analysis “suggest that recovery effects could be obtained after a very short time (i.e. (i.e. 27.4 seconds). Another study found that micro-pauses of 40 seconds are enough to improve attention and task performance. Finally, other researchers were more generous with the time needed. to recover during micropauses, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes, raising the possibility that micropauses are of “optimal duration. However, there is still no set standard for the length of these short breaks, nor explicit consideration of sufficient time for recovery to occur.

“It is important to note that the micro-cracks do not seem to influence the overall performance. However, when the rest is longer, performance tends to improve, particularly when individuals are engaged in clerical or creative tasks, and less so when engaging in activities of a cognitively demanding nature,” they concluded.

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