Wellbeing | How 'microbreaks' could reduce fatigue at work

How 'microbreaks' could reduce fatigue at work

The compounded stress that employees are feeling as a result of the pandemic is undeniable. However, according to new data discovered by North Carolina State University, just a five-minute ‘microbreak’ is enough to significantly reduce fatigue and improve ‘sharpness’.

The data, which was documented by the Daily Mail, was discovered in an international survey undertaken by researchers at the US-based university. It concluded that the implementation of what the researchers called ‘microbreaks’ was an effective way of staving off fatigue in the working day.

Taking ‘microbreaks’, AKA stepping away from the computer for just five minutes several times throughout the day, was found to help workers gather the energy to complete tasks with an improved mood.

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The team suggested that making a cup of coffee or playing a game during this time could well help workers relax and take their mind away from work-related tasks. 

Other suggestions for effective microbreaks included taking time to have a snack, chatting to a fellow home-worker or even simply playing with a family pet.

“A microbreak is, by definition, short,” Sophia Cho, a Psychology Professor at North Carolina State University, told the Daily Mail. “But a five-minute break can be golden if you take it at the right time,” she added.

To ascertain exactly how effective the concept of microbreaks was, Cho’s team researched two key studies, both of which were conducted before the coronavirus pandemic shut down offices, before the results were published in The Journal of Applied Physiology. They first surveyed over 100 workers from the US alone, and featured workers filling out two questionnaires, covering sleep quality, fatigue level and work engagement, per day for ten days.

The second study looked at over 220 workers from South Korea, who were given three surveys a day for five consecutive days – one in the morning and two in the afternoon and evening.

They discovered that, on days in which workers arrived at work tired, they tended to take microbreaks more often. Those short respites from work helped them maintain their energy level, which helped them complete work tasks and feel better about their job.

“Basically, microbreaks help you manage your energy resources over the course of the day – and that's particularly beneficial on days when you're tired,” Cho said.

“When people think their employer cares about their health, they feel more empowered to freely make decisions about when to take microbreaks and what type of microbreaks to take. It is in a company's best interest to give employees autonomy in terms of taking microbreaks when they are needed,” she added.

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