Microbreaks Improve Happiness and Productivity

Many of us know that it is important to take breaks during the workday. Taking breaks helps improve focus, reduce fatigue, and decrease the risk of work-related physical problems, such as carpel tunnel. While we often think of breaks as requiring large chunks of time (such as a lunch break), recent research has focused on the benefits of microbreaks, which are short breaks that last just 30 seconds to five minutes. Microbreaks, it turns out, can be just as effective as longer breaks.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that microbreaks help employees boost productivity and experience more enjoyment and positive emotions during the workday. Specifically, the researchers found that microbreaks that involve relaxation, socializing with others, or cognitive rest increase positive emotions at work, which then predicts better work performance. In addition to these benefits, other research has found that microbreaks can be just as helpful as longer breaks for improving focus, boosting energy, and reducing the risk of physical problems. Microbreaks are most useful when taken regularly throughout the day, rather than on just one or two occasions.

Here are easy some ways that you can use microbreaks to get the most out of your workday:

  • Socialize. Chatting with a colleague, calling a friend, or sending a text are all
    excellent ways to socialize during the workday.
  • Meditate. Just a few minutes of meditation can boost your mood and improve focus.
  • Relax. Simply close your eyes or look away from the computer screen and allow your
    mind to wander.
  • Take a short walk. You can take a quick walk around the office or step outside.

To get the most benefit, make a habit of taking frequent microbreaks every day. Until they become part of your normal routine, you might need to use reminders to take microbreaks (such as setting an alarm on your phone). By making microbreaks part of your daily routine, you’ll likely find that you feel happier, more focused, and more productive at work.

Christine Howard, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Reference: Kim, S., Park, Y., & Headrick, L. (2018). Daily micro-breaks and job performance: General work engagement as a cross-level moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(7), 772-786.