Research/studies Worker health and wellness

Mid-morning breaks may improve worker concentration, health: study

office workers

Photo: dolgachov/iStockphoto

Waco, TX – Taking a work break in the mid-morning, rather than waiting until the lunch hour or midday, may “replenish more resources” such as concentration and energy and lead to better health, according to recent research from Baylor University.

During a five-day workweek, 95 employees – ages 22 to 67 – tracked their breaks, which were characterized as a period of time during the workday when job tasks were not required or expected. Breaks included time for lunch, coffee, email or socializing (but excluded bathroom breaks). The workers averaged two breaks per day.

“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” researchers said in a Sept. 9 press release. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”

The researchers also found that workers who took “better breaks” – which consist of doing what workers want to do and do not necessarily exclude job-related activities that workers find enjoyable – had fewer “somatic symptoms” such as headaches, eyestrain and lower back pain. In addition, study results indicated a link between more frequent, brief breaks and higher resources, suggesting workers should take such breaks to recover.

The study was published online Aug. 20 in the Journal of Applied Psychology.