A brief break is better than no rest at all and possibly boosts productivity better than a longer break. Micro-breaks, defined as a break of ten minutes or less, may be especially good for wellness. A review of 22 published studies using the PRISMA 2020 framework for meta-analysis revealed micro-breaks made a statistically significant difference in participants’ vigor. The meta-analysis published in PLOS One highlighted the association of micro-breaks with increased energy, reduced fatigue and restored mental focus.
A significant number of research studies have focused on employee productivity and recovery practices after the work shift, so this review is one of the first to examine recovery processes during a task. The methodology included a search of online databases using Boolean operators (SCOPUS, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO) for research on microbreaks published between January 1990 and April 2021. The studies focused on tasks that ranged in nature. They included experiments, work simulations, real work-related tasks, and non-work-related cognitive tests.
The review indicated that scheduling micro-breaks during more cognitively demanding tasks led to greater efficiency and focus, but longer breaks tended to be linked to a sense of restored mental and physical energy for a range of tasks. The researchers found that longer breaks were linked to better performance results for highly depleting tasks.
Accumulated stress can lessen productivity, so it is important to develop restorative practices that work best given an individual’s physical and mental condition and the work conditions impacting the task. The study is applicable to many workplaces and types of tasks. Workplaces can reduce mental depletion by incorporating longer and shorter breaks into a work shift. In turn, they may see a decrease in skeletal fatigue and eye fatigue.
Future research will explore which micro-break activities are best for restoring vigor and reducing fatigue.