“Microbreaks” are exactly what they sound like – short breaks taken by employees between work tasks. Prior research has suggested four main categories of microbreaks: relaxation (e.g., stretching), nutrition intake (e.g., snacking), socialization (e.g., chatting with coworkers), and cognitive activities (e.g., reading a magazine). Previous research has shown that these breaks can have positive outcomes for employee well-being, but little is known about what influences employees to take microbreaks.
MICROBREAKS AT WORK
Researchers (Kim et al., 2021) conducted two studies in which they collected data from employees via surveys at multiple times each day throughout the work week. Employees reported their sleep quality, fatigue levels, work engagement, and frequency of engaging in different types of microbreaks.
Together, the results of both studies revealed a pattern in which poor sleep quality on the previous night was related to higher fatigue at the beginning of the workday, which was in turn related to taking more frequent microbreaks during the day. The frequency of microbreaks was then related to lower fatigue and higher work engagement at the end of the workday.
Importantly, this pattern of results only occurred when employee perceptions of the organizational health climate were high, but not low. Organizational health climate refers to an employee’s perception of support from coworkers, supervisors, and management for employee well-being. When employees believe that their organization supports their well-being, they also report feeling more control over their ability to take microbreaks when needed. Indeed, in this study, these “supported” employees were more likely to actually take microbreaks.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Overall, these findings suggest that microbreaks may serve as an effective means to combat fatigue and foster work engagement. However, this may only be the case in the context of a supportive organizational health climate.
The researchers suggest several practical applications of these findings. First, they suggest that organizations could offer seminars to provide employees with information on how microbreaks can serve as an energy management strategy. Additionally, organizations should aim to create a supportive culture that is “microbreaks-friendly,” in order to allow employees to feel safe to take microbreaks. For example, organizations could provide resting areas, snacks, or magazines for employees to use during microbreaks.
Kim, S., Cho, S., & Park, Y. (2021). Daily microbreaks in a self-regulatory resources lens: Perceived health climate as a contextual moderator via microbreak autonomy. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.