SFU research shows how important taking breaks is in the workplace

“When employees see work breaks as useful and necessary, they are less likely to skip or shorten their break"

SFU campus in Burnaby | Photo: SFU Alumni/Instagram

Do you skip your breaks at work or do you spend your breaks talking about work?

If you said 'Yes' to either, there's new research from a Burnaby post-secondary school that says it's very important to take full and proper breaks.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) management and organization studies assistant professor Zhanna Lyubykh led a systematic review of 83 studies which focused on the role of work breaks in fostering well-being and performance. 

Lyubykh's review found benefits of breaks decrease the amount of stress, emotional exhaustion, cognitive irritation and sleep problems. 

Her review also found breaks of 10 minutes or more helps improve psychological well-being and some evidence showed improvements in physical well-being such as helping back pain. 

The length or amount of breaks taken appears to matter less compared to how employees actually spend their time while stepping away from the job. 

Lyubykh says 97 per cent of workers in the 83 studies spent most of their time on social media but social media use had mixed results such as boosting work engagement one hour later but decreasing creativity. 

Suprisingly, exercising while on break did not have a huge impact on employee performance but did improve psychological and physical well-being. 

"When employees see work breaks as useful and necessary, they are less likely to skip or shorten their break,” Lyubykh said. 

“Organizations can help by introducing unstructured break periods that allow employees to take breaks as needed. Studies show that employees who can choose when they take their breaks experience less stress compared to workplaces that have an overly rigid work break schedule.”

And turns out, location and timing also matter.

The review states taking a break outdoors with greenspace contributed to feelings of restoration.

As well, breaks taken after lunch in the afternoon were more effective at reducing emotional strain than those taken at other times. 

Burnaby Now