Research shows workday microbreaks improve focus and productivity

Are you someone who would rather take small breaks throughout the day than one long lunch break? It turns out that science supports your approach. New research suggests that people who prefer these “microbreaks” are equally productive and these mini rests could even help you stay more engaged during a demanding workday. 

Researchers from North Carolina State University wanted to explore how different break lengths affected productivity and focus. They analyzed two studies on productivity to come to their conclusions. The first study surveyed 98 US workers and asked them to complete two surveys per day for 10 consecutive workdays. The second looked at 222 workers in South Korea with three surveys per day. Each questionnaire, completed throughout the day, asked about workers’ fatigue levels, engagement, sleep quality, mood, focus, and break schedules. 

When looking at the data, researchers found that microbreaks helped workers better manage work demands and maintain their energy levels. Microbreaks seemed to be particularly effective for individuals who came to work already feeling fatigued. 

These microbreaks were categorized as five-minute breaks taken every couple hours in which workers stretched, checked in with coworkers, ate a snack, or listened to music. Also interesting, the study found that workers were more likely to take these beneficial microbreaks if they felt their employer cared about the health and wellbeing of their employees. 

We frequently discuss the benefits of a balanced workday for maintaining physical and mental health as well as avoiding burnout. Our bodies are not meant to be stationary for extended periods of time, so it’s no surprise that taking small frequent breaks to move our muscles and clear our minds improves focus and creativity when we come back to our desks. 

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