The results are in, and breaks are now one of the best ways to ensure that you’re performing at your cognitive best.
Reviewing 22 previous studies about breaks and productivity over the past thirty years, researchers discovered a pattern between taking frequent breaks and better cognitive function. These aren’t the typical fifteen-minute breaks allotted per number of hours worked that focus on working large percentages of the day before taking a break. Instead, these are micro-breaks.
In the studies, participants performed tasks both in and out of the office and took breaks from their tasks for less than 10 minutes. During the breaks, they were encouraged to do a wide variety of activities which included physical activity, pursuit of relaxation, or passive activities like reading or watching videos.
The workers came back to their tasks invigorated and less tired. The longer the break, the better the cognitive performance got for people working on mundane, administrative tasks or tasks that required lots of creative horsepower. However, shorter breaks were found to suit cognitively demanding work better.
Though it’s easy to focus on just boosting cognitive function through the mindset of go, go, go, learning to take small and frequent breaks helps the brain restore and recover throughout the work day, leading to a better sense of wellbeing for a more sustainable way to deal with various workloads.
Patricia Albulescu, Irina Macsinga, Andrei Rusu, Coralia Sulea, Alexandra Bodnaru, Bogdan Tudor Tulbure. ‘Give me a break!’ A systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy of micro-breaks for increasing well-being and performance. PLOS ONE, 2022; 17 (8): e0272460 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272460