The Benefits of Microbreaks

Undeniably, the workday can fly by quickly. Filled with projects and meetings, it may even prove difficult to find time to stop and take a break. Maybe you’re even one of those people that quickly shovels down your lunch at your desk in the midst of a meeting.

While you might not be able to take a full hour-long break, it’s likely you, at least, have time for a few microbreaks. What are microbreaks? How can a microbreak benefit you? You’re about to find out. In this article, we’re diving into everything microbreak-related.

What is a MicroBreak?

A microbreak involves taking a brief pause from a physically or mentally draining task, such as work. This break may only be a few seconds or it may last several minutes. Either way, it’s a quick break, allowing you to break up the monotony of work.

During a microbreak, you might quickly perform a stretch or two. Maybe you’ll grab a cup of coffee. Or perhaps you’ll eat a quick snack. What you do with this time is entirely up to you. However (and we can’t recommend this enough), you will likely benefit from a little movement during this time. In turn, this prevents you from spending hours on end sitting in the same position, which can have detrimental effects on your health and well-being.

The Benefits of MicroBreaks

So, why bother with microbreaks? What actually are the benefits associated with them?

Benefit #1: They can reduce stress.

Depending on the type of work you do, you may find your job stressful. And stress can quickly get in the way of your productivity, as well as your mental wellness.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Ohio and Purdue University in Indiana actually put this to the test many decades ago.

In their study, researchers set-up an office environment where participants sat for two days performing repetitive data entry tasks. Every 40 minutes, each worker was allotted one microbreak if they so choose. While these microbreaks didn’t exactly boost productivity, researchers did note that participants who took longer microbreaks had lower heart rates, indicating less stress.

Since this study, many other studies followed. In fact, another study showed that microbreaks actually increased the attention of manual assembly workers. It’s thought that the initial study may have imposed too short of microbreaks (at about 27 seconds each) to have this same benefit. In other words, microbreaks over 27 seconds can help reduce stress and boost productivity.

Benefit #2: They can decrease physical pain.

Microbreaks can help your body cope with the physical stress involved with sitting for long durations. The human body was never meant to sit at a desk all day. Quite simply, our knowledge and technology have surpassed our physical evolution. Our bodies just haven’t quite caught up. This means that many aches and pains result due to sedentary activity and a lack of movement.

Yet, microbreaks provide a few seconds or minutes to move your body. You can even use this time to perform a few beneficial stretches, reducing your risk of pain developing down the road.

In fact, a 2001 study demonstrated how microbreaks every 20 or 40 minutes were associated with reduce discomforts that come from sitting at a desk. This includes decreased wrist pain and neck pain.

Related: Having the right kind of standing desk is a good start to getting in the micro break habit

Benefit #3: It can reduce eye strain.

Staring at a computer all day doesn’t just affect the joints and muscles of the body. Staring at that screen all day can be taxing on your eyes and vision.

Yet, microbreaks offer an opportunity to look away from your screen, even if it’s only for a few seconds. The 20-20-20 rule is a great method to follow to protect your eyesight. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This decreases your risk of eye strain and fatigue, ensuring your vision doesn’t get in the way of your career dreams.

Maximizing Your Microbreaks

By now, you might be wondering how you can get the most out of your microbreaks. So far, you have the option to move or stretch, as well as to move your eyes away from your screen. But what else can you do during these tiny breaks throughout your day? How can you maximize these small snippets of time?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Practice breathing techniques. Doing so can help you de-stress further and allow you to focus or concentrate better on any task at hand.
  • Get outside! Yes, this might only be for a few minutes, but the fresh air and sun do the body so much good. Try it out and you might be surprised by the positive effects you notice, even with only a few minutes of fresh air.
  • Drink some water. Many of us don’t drink enough water throughout our day. Use these microbreaks as an excuse to grab a glass of H2O!
  • Watch a quick music video or that funny video your friend sent you. Now is the time. You have a few minutes to do anything but work, so why not?
  • Schedule your microbreaks. This might sound silly since they are such short bits of time. However, they might not happen if they aren’t penciled in. You can even use a timer to remind you to take that quick break. The Pomodoro technique is a popular time-management and microbreak strategy that you may want to consider.

So, go ahead. Take those microbreaks! It might just help you feel better, be more productive, and so much more.

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