The Importance of Taking Breaks

When working on a complex problem or when you feel that you have too much to do, it is easy to convince yourself that you do not have the time to take breaks. 

However, research has found that taking a break can be very beneficial for you and your work.  Micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks and longer breaks, have all been shown to have a positive relationship with wellbeing and productivity. By taking regular breaks you can boost your performance.

Although taking short breaks throughout the working day may not have as obvious an impact as taking a holiday, research has found significant benefits. Studies have found that breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help to maintain performance throughout the day and reduce the need for a long recovery at the end of the day [1]; [2]. A study by Korpela, Kinnunen, Geurts, de Bloom and Sianoja (2016) [3] found that taking lunchtime breaks and detaching from work, increases levels of energy at work and decreases exhaustion. Furthermore, one year later it was found to increase vigor and increase energy levels over time.

Relaxing and social breaks have been found to be particularly beneficial. A relaxing break can help to facilitate recovery, by returning your mental and psychical functional systems to their baseline [4]. Additionally, a relaxing break can help to reset your mood, thereby promoting positive wellbeing and reducing stress [5].

Social breaks, such as chatting with your peers, have also been found to be beneficial. Social interactions allow you to share your experiences and feel part of a group.  This feeling of relatedness, during a social break shows a positive association with feeling recovered after the break [6]. 

Taking breaks has been shown to be important in recovering from stress [7], which can, in turn, improve your performance. Recovering from work stress can restore energy and mental resources and decrease the development of fatigue, sleep disorders and cardiovascular disease [2]. 

Kim, Park and Niu (2017) [8] research found it is important to take mini-breaks throughout the working day. Mini-breaks help to support your wellbeing and increase productivity. A mini-break is a few minutes away from your work; this may be chatting with someone who is in the room with you or getting a drink.

Tips for Ensuring you Take Breaks

When you get lost in your work or feel frustrated that something isn’t going well, you can neglect breaks. Here are some tips to prompt you to regularly step away and rebuild your energy.

  1. Agree break times with your peers and help each other to stick to the break time you’ve agreed.
  2. Set an alarm on your phone to prompt you.
  3. Plan to do something in your break that you enjoy – the anticipation of pleasure will motivate you to keep to the break.
  4. Pay attention to any benefits you experience when you take a break – this will lodge in your mind and motivate you to take breaks in future.
  5. Use post-it notes or drawings in your workspace to remind you that a PGR project is a long-term piece of work – you won’t complete it well, if you burn yourself out: so, take a break.

Video Resources

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Chair Yoga: Animation created by Madeleine Tizard and Ole Kristian Dale, BA Animation Students - University of Derby.



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