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'Microbreaks' can boost productivity, decrease fatigue: study

TORONTO – If you’re feeling tired at work, taking frequent quick breaks can give you the boost you need to make it through the workday.

A paper published earlier this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology has found that taking daily “microbreaks” can help boost productivity and decrease fatigue at the end of the day.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore, North Carolina State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzed survey results from 98 workers in the US and 222 workers in South Korea. Participants were asked to keep a daily journal and assess their previous night’s sleep quality, fatigue throughout the workday, work engagement and how often they take “short, informal breaks taken voluntarily during their work hour.”

The studies that found on days when employees had poor quality of sleep, they experienced higher levels of fatigue the following morning. But those employees took more frequent microbreaks, which led to “higher work engagement during the day and lower end-of-work fatigue.”

“A five-minute break can be golden if you take it “at the right time. Our study shows that it is in a company’s best interest to give employees autonomy in terms of taking microbreaks when they are needed – it helps employees effectively manage their energy and engage in their work throughout the day,” said co- author Sophia Cho in a news release.

But taking frequent breaks is frowned upon among certain employers. Researchers looked at the “perceived health climate,” which refers to whether employees perceive their employers to be supportive of their health and well-being. Employees were more likely to take breaks when there was a positive perceived health climate.

“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, ”Cho said in the news release. “And that is ultimately good for both the employer and the employee.”

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