Do you often find yourself sitting down at your desk to tackle a large project, only to stare at a computer screen for hours while little gets accomplished? Or perhaps you experience depleted energy levels and bodily aches upon leaving the office each day. These are signs that you are either not taking enough breaks or you are failing to make efficient use of them. While many work cultures still view breaks as a privilege and not a necessity, the reality is that taking time to rest and recharge can improve work performance, boost energy and help replenish both the psychological and physiological costs associated with long hours of sedentary work. These short but effective recesses from focus work, dubbed as microbreaks, have been the emphasis of recent research and we’re highlighting the flurry of benefits that they bring to both employees and employers.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Allegro Offices in Warsaw, Poland
Breaks vs. Microbreaks
A recent report from Gallup found that full-time employees in the US work an average of 47 hours per week and nearly 40% of those polled work at least 50 hours. Such staggering statistics are a perfect lead into a conversation about microbreaking. It is important, first, to understand the difference between traditional work breaks and microbreaks. The former most often consists of scheduled 15 minute recesses in the morning and afternoon, in addition to a scheduled recess for lunch. Microbreaks, on the other hand, last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and are meant to be taken frequently. The activities that these microbreaks consist of and the timeline in which they are incorporated throughout the day are completely at the user’s discretion. Whether we choose to get up and grab a cup of coffee, stretch our limbs or make a quick call to a family member, these microbreaks break up repetitive and monotonous desk work. Most of us are aware that taking breaks during long stretches of work are necessary, but recent studies have shown just how beneficial the frequency of microbreaks can be in helping our bodies and minds recuperate and re-energize.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Grubhub Offices in Chicago, IL
As previously discussed in CDI’s blog post on Office Ergonomics, the health hazards of prolonged sedentary work are extremely dangerous. Increased risk of asthma, diabetes, obesity, fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, all spawn from extended periods of sitting and play a detrimental role on workplace performance. While traditional breaks are necessary disruptions to the sedentary habits of employees, microbreaking has been found to be even more effective in relieving our bodies from static positions and reducing muscle discomfort and fatigue. A study conducted by Baylor University discovered that frequent, short breaks led workers to experience less negative bodily symptoms, including headaches, lower back pain and eyestrain once returning to work. Stanford University also suggests taking microbreaks every 10 minutes and switching tasks every 30 minutes to avoid the risk of ergonomic injury.
Aside from the physiological benefits of microbreaking, short, frequent breaks provide replenishment for our minds as well. Just as we must take breaks from physical activity to avoid overexertion and prevent injury, so, too, we must take mental breaks to renew our energy levels and boost productivity. Baylor’s aforementioned study discovered that employees who took short breaks away from their work came back with revitalized energy, concentration and motivation. These workers also experienced higher job satisfaction, reduction in emotional exhaustion and increased enthusiasm. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that giving into brief diversions once an hour can dramatically improve your ability to focus on tasks for extended periods of time. Taking a short break allows us to come back to our work with recharged creativity, concentration and overall levels of productivity.
Recharging the Workplace
For many employees, especially those bogged down with long hours and deadlines, taking breaks may seem out of the question. Stepping away from the office for an entire hour? Laughable! Breaking focus to grab a cup of coffee every 60 minutes? Unnecessary. The statistics, however, prove that our methods of productivity are not always as beneficial as we believe. As previously discussed on the blog, Gallup analytics have revealed that workplace productivity across the globe is extremely low and the 2017 U.S. Employee Engagement study found that a mere one-third of employees feel engaged at work. With a multitude of physiological and psychological benefits that boost not only employee health and wellness, but engagement and performance levels as well, microbreaking can help bridge the disconnect between workers and their workplace. Cultivating a company culture which educates employees on the benefits of taking regular breaks and strongly encourages them to do so, will yield a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
For more information on how CDI is helping organization’s create their ideal culture through workplace design, please contact:
Corporate Design Interiors (CDI) is an industry-leading commercial furniture dealership whose award-winning product knowledge, thoughtful design coupled with strategic planning deliver functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement. CDI’s relentless focus on delivering positive workplaces mirroring the culture and vision of companies while delivering a high value investment has earned CDI diverse clients including; established Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits/public sector and energetic startups.
As a “Select” Kimball dealer, CDI’s excellence in sales, partnership, quality improvement, community involvement and overall business best practices earned it the 2017 Kimball Premier Partner Award. CDI was selected among 52 other Kimball Select dealerships throughout the country for this industry-leading honor, earning additional praise for its company culture and enterprise practices.
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