Why Microbreaks Make You More Productive

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Remote work has become ubiquitous in certain sectors of the American workplace. If you have some type of office job, it's more than likely you've been able to keep it during the pandemic, thanks to technology. Though the paychecks are important, telecommuting can be a mixed blessing, not least because we're working nearly an hour longer every day since COVID touched down.


Psychologists in North Carolina and Singapore may have some good news for those of us pushing through exhaustion more and more. A research team has just released a study on the effects of unlimited short breaks while knowledge workers are on the clock. As it turns out, being able to choose when you step away from your job throughout the day can help you summon the energy to keep doing it.

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The researchers call these "microbreaks," and they "include discretionary activities such as having a snack, chatting with a colleague, stretching, or working on a crossword puzzle." They're especially effective on days when you're tired, because they help workers manage their own fatigue. It didn't matter how many of these microbreaks study participants took — if they were fatigued enough to need more frequent breaks, those refresher moments gave them the focus and the energy to do what needed to get done.


That employees have autonomy over their break schedule is also key, reinforcing their employers' trust in them to finish their work as they best see fit.

"A microbreak is, by definition, short," said coauthor Sophia Cho. "But a five-minute break can be golden if you take it at the right time."