You might feel like a slacker if you duck out for a cup of coffee just two hours after arriving at the office.
But should your boss question your work ethic, tell her you’re acting in the interest of your own productivity.
That’s according to new research, which found that mid-morning breaks are significantly more restorative than mid-afternoon ones.
The study, led by Emily Hunter, Ph.D., and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., at Baylor University, was based on surveys of 95 employees, who were asked to record their daily well-being and break activities throughout a five-day workweek. Breaks were defined as any period of time during the workday in which work tasks were not required or expected – so lunch, coffee, and socializing with coworkers were all included.
Results showed that the more time that had passed since the beginning of the workday, the less useful a break was. Breaks taken earlier in the day were more likely to replenish resources, including energy, concentration, and motivation.
That’s likely because, at least among those who sit in front of a computer all day, those resources are at their highest soon after you wake up, and gradually diminish throughout the day. So it’s easier to restore your resources when you take a break closer to the start of the workday.
- Tech Hub/flickr
Another curious finding is the idea that you don’t necessarily have to engage in non-work-related activities to get the most out of a break. Just make sure you’re doing something that you like to do and you choose to do. In other words, making some headway on a work project you’re super-pumped about could be even more restorative than scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.
Workers in the study who took better breaks – meaning doing activities they preferred, and earlier in the day – reported fewer somatic symptoms, including headaches, eyestrain, and lower back pain. They also were more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to experience burnout.
Given that many of us are slammed from the minute we get into the office, it’s crucial to maximize what precious little break time we have. Retooling our respite can make just as much of a difference in our productivity levels as restructuring designated work times.