How to take better workday breaks

September 9, 2015
Science Daily/Baylor University
A new empirical study provides a greater understanding of workday breaks and offers suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes from the J-O-B. The research also debunks some common break-time myths.

Most people take breaks during their workdays. Coffee breaks. Lunch breaks. Short chats with coworkers. Maybe late afternoon walks around the building.

But are they taking the best type of breaks? Breaks that boost energy, concentration and motivation?

Two Baylor University researchers have published a new empirical study -- "Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery" -- in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The research provides a greater understanding of workday breaks and offers suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes from the J-O-B. The research also debunks some common break-time myths.

Emily Hunter, Ph.D., and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., associate professors of management in Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, surveyed 95 employees (ages 22-67) over a five-day workweek, and each person was asked to document each break they took during that time. Breaks were defined as "any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks."

Hunter and Wu chronicled and analyzed a total of 959 break surveys -- an average of two breaks per person per day. They say the results of the study benefit both managers and employees.

"We took some of our layperson hypotheses about what we believed were helpful in a break and tested those empirically in the best way possible," Hunter said. "This is a strong study design with strong analyses to test those hypotheses. What we found was that a better workday break was not composed of many of the things we believed. "

Key findings of the study include:
 

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