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Optimizing work breaks for health, job satisfaction and productivity

5187630414_6102463a6c_zThink about the breaks you take during the day. Perhaps you hit pause midday to grab lunch and to run errands. Or maybe you step away from your desk frequently to briefly socialize with co-workers, get coffee or satisfy a sugar craving. Have you ever wondered what might be the optimal length and type of break?

Researchers at Baylor University asked themselves that question and discovered new insights into what constitutes a "better break." In a study involving employees ages 22 to 67, researchers asked participants to document their breaks from work and analyzed their responses. Psych Central reports that study results suggest not all breaks are created equal, and that the type of breaks we take could potentially affect our health and job satisfaction.

Findings showed a mid-morning break can help boost your concentration, motivation and energy and that doing things you either choose or like to do during a break can help aid in recovery from stress or fatigue. According to the story:

People who take “better breaks” experience better health and increased job satisfaction.

The employee surveys showed that recovery of resources — energy, concentration, and motivation — following a “better break” (earlier in the day, doing things they preferred) led workers to experience less somatic symptoms, including headache, eyestrain, and lower back pain after the break.

These employees also experienced increased job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior as well as a decrease in emotional exhaustion (burnout), the study shows.

Longer breaks are good, but it’s beneficial to take frequent short breaks.

While the study was unable to pinpoint an exact length of time for a better workday break (15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.), the research found that more short breaks were associated with higher resources, suggesting that employees should be encouraged to take more frequent short breaks to facilitate recovery.

Researchers believe breaks are an essential intervention to help a person stay sharp and energized.

“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” [said Emily Hunter, PhD, associate professor of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.]

Previously: No time for a vacation? Take a break without leaving the officeHow Stanford and Silicon Valley companies are fostering "work-life integration", Workplace stress and how it influences health and Stanford class teaches students how to live a happier, healthier life,
Photo by Daniil Kalinin

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