If you give employees a mid-morning break, your business may well benefit for the rest of the day.
So concludes a study — albeit with a small sample population — of workday breaks by Baylor University.
Research by Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu, associate professors of management at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, asked 95 employees to chart their daily breaks over a five-day workweek.
An analysis of the 959 documented breaks found that the most effective for restorative purposes were those taken in mid-morning, thus, according to the researchers, dispelling the notion that lunch and afternoon breaks are really best for employees and for profitability.
“We took some of our layperson hypotheses about what we believed were helpful in a break and tested those empirically in the best way possible,” Hunter said. “This is a strong study design with strong analyses to test those hypotheses. What we found was that a better workday break was not composed of many of the things we believed. ”
What’s a break? The definition used in the study was “any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks.”
Here are four key findings about workday breaks from the study:
1. The most beneficial time to take a workday break is mid-morning.
“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,” the study said. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”
2. “Better breaks” incorporate activities that employees prefer.
And sometimes, that includes discussing or performing work — which is generally considered non-relaxing and non-restorative. Yet this study found no evidence to differentiate between work-related and non-work-related break activities.
“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do — something that’s not given to you or assigned to you — are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.
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