You know those coffee breaks you encourage people to take, to spend a few minutes recharging their batteries — even if it means browsing Facebook? Better find a new recharger. Turns out these breaks might not be so helpful after all.
No less an authority than the Harvard Business Review has published an article drawn on an academic’s series of studies on how people take breaks at work.
Those short breaks during the workday don’t do a thing — unless you’re using the time for something job-related and positive (grumbling doesn’t count). These activities include learning something new, observing how well someone else is performing, or writing a to-do list.
Charlotte Fritz of Portland State University looked at the “microbreaks” people take at work.
The results showed that:
- Taking time to make personal calls or use Facebook did nothing to relieve fatigue or increase energy levels. In some cases, these breaks were even linked to increased weariness among employees!
- Breaks that included work-related tasks appeared to juice up energy levels.
- Other mini-breaks that weren’t connected to the job — going to the bathroom, getting water or a beverage, or making personal phone calls — had little influence on workers’ energy levels.
- Listening to music, or making weekend plans? Also a drain on employee energy.
- Healthy activities, like taking a walk outside? No connection to vitality or fatigue levels.
But don’t discount lunch breaks, the study says.
They’re great times to think positively about work, to learn something new — both work-related and non-work-related — and can have a positive effect that carries through the afternoon and even after quitting time.