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How valuable are workplace micro-breaks?

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Office employees have been warned against taking too many micro-breaks during the working day.

According to a new study, individuals who take regular breaks which are non-job related tend to end up wearier at the end of the day.

Charlotte Fritz, assistant professor at Portland State University said that while there is value in disconnecting from work, micro-breaks during the working day may not be the best approach.

She suggested that making breaks ‘about work’ can help employees remain engaged throughout their nine till five shift.

“Nearly across the board, micro-breaks that were not job related, such as getting a glass of water, calling a relative, or going to the bathroom, didn’t seem to have any significant relationship to people’s reported energy,” Ms Fritz stated.

“Some activities, like listening to music and making weekend plans, seemed to have a negative impact on energy.”

She claimed that the only time people showed an increase in vitality was after they took short breaks to do work-related things, such as praise a colleague or write a to-do list.

But whether or not this report will go down well with office workers is debatable.

Employees are regularly advised to take regular breaks away from their desks – particularly those who use computers throughout the working day – in order to recuperate and ensure they are fit for a full day’s work.

If employees fail to get away from the workplace at lunchtime, there is often a negative impact upon productivity late in the day as fatigue creeps in and the individual loses motivation.

As such, employers need to think very carefully about their policies for employee breaks – considering legal obligations and the views of their own staff.