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5 Surprising Benefits of Micro Breaks and How to Get Started

17 July 2023

Gone are the days when breaks during the workday were reserved for smokers.

Today, an increasing number of organizations are now embracing the benefits of micro breaks, and for good reasons.

The human body is a complicated machine that's far more complicated than known human circuits. It's a combination of bones, muscles, tendons, joints, nerves, and neurons that collaborate and prevent burnout like any other machine. But there are instances when the body gets tired, and that's when rest comes into play to restore our energy.

While taking regular breaks from life in general, like annual leaves, make a great way to restore energy and productivity, there's something that researchers now focus on a lot, and that is microbreaks.

What are microbreaks, and how do they affect productivity? What other benefits do microbreaks offer, and how can you incorporate them into your work schedule? That's all that we look at in this post. So, let's get started.

What is a Microbreak?

As the name suggests, a microbreak is a short break you voluntarily take while at work. During a typical work day that starts around 9 and is supposed to end by 5, you may have to spend at least 8 hours at work, but that doesn't mean you constantly have to work. The idea of microbreak revolves around taking short (30 seconds to 5 minutes) breaks once every 30-40 minutes.

You should use these microbreaks as an opportunity to take a short walk, refill your glass of water and do a quick stretch.

Microbreaks serve two purposes. Once it breaks up the monotony of constantly concentrating at work. Moreover, it aids in introducing frequent, periodic movements for your body throughout your workday.

As you will see below, microbreaks offer a wide range of advantages, so a few minutes for a short break can serve as a great investment for your health and well-being.

5 Surprising Benefits of Micro Breaks

Benefit #1: Improves Concentration and Productivity

One of the most obvious benefits of taking microbreaks is it helps you regain focus. Unlike what most people think, taking breaks doesn’t actually distract you from work. Instead, it has the opposite effect of improving your concentration and boosting your productivity.

According to research, incorporating microbreaks into your everyday work schedule helps maintain concentration and productivity throughout the day. The study revealed that taking brief mental breaks helps prevent the brain from becoming desensitized to work on the same kind of work for too long, which often leads to a drop in attention and productivity.

Microbreaks, on the other hand, help reengage the brain on the same task following a short break which means you can now work with renewed focus and attention.

But how long should the microbreak be that will help you refocus?

While there's no specific duration, a break as short as 40 seconds is enough to regain attention.

Benefit #2: Reduces Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the most pressing concerns in the workplace. According to a survey, around 83% of U.S. workers experience job-on stress at some point throughout their workday. Microbreaks serve as a great way to help reduce your stress levels.

Research suggests that work routines comprising short breaks spread throughout the day help lower the heart rate, indicating reduced stress levels. Moreover, incorporating short breaks throughout the day also helps reduce work-related errors (due to improved focus and productivity). Given that there is a reduction in work-related errors (often a source of workplace stress), microbreaks serve an integral role in managing workplace stress.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by your work demands, get up from your workstation and take a quick break to practice deep breathing, stretch your neck or back, or peak out in nature and see the difference it creates for you.

Benefit #3: Aids in Protecting Against Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorder is a broad term that is used to refer to injuries to the muscles, nerves, or joints of your body. The range of conditions that affect your muscles, joints, and nerves are commonly associated with poor ergonomics at work. For anyone working for a job that requires persistent sitting or standing or getting their body into awkward postures has a much higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

Microbreaks serve as a way to protect against the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Several studies have been concerned that taking short breaks from the desk and changing body position frequently throughout the day helps reduce neck, shoulder, and back pain as it helps improve blood circulation in different areas of your body. Moreover, incorporating stretching during microbreaks can further strengthen your body muscles to protect against musculoskeletal disorders.

Benefit #4: Prevents Against Eye Strain

Another primary concern associated with a desk job is blurry vision and eye strain due to the persistent use of the screen. Constantly staring at the screen can lead to dryness of the eye and also contributes to tension headaches and migraines.

Ask any optometrist about these eye concerns associated with persistent use of the screen, and they will most likely recommend you to take regular breaks along with several other measures to reduce digital eye strain.

By incorporating microbreaks in your workday, you can reduce eye discomfort and other conditions associated with the persistent use of the screen. One of the most popular microbreak routines that is specially dedicated to eyes is the 20-20-20 rule. The rule is simple to follow and brings great results for preventing eye strain. You must readjust your focus off your screen once every 20 minutes to look at something at a distance of around 20 feet. Continue this practice for 20 seconds, and you will notice a significant improvement in digital eye concerns.

Benefit #5: Lowers Your Risk of Premature Death

While there are many benefits of microbreaks, this is the most surprising. Incorporating microbreaks into your routine might extend your lifespan.

Sitting in the same position for long periods can hurt your mind and body. Moreover, with a work schedule that requires you to sit for long hours, it can be challenging to incorporate physical workouts. Prolonged sitting coupled with a lack of physical activity leads to several physical ailments ranging from bad cholesterol to insulin resistance and a lot more.

A sedentary lifestyle is the new smoking and is a leading cause of premature death.

You can lower this risk by scheduling regular microbreaks throughout the day. Short breaks that involve physical movement help break the cycle of a sedentary lifestyle and help contribute to lowering your risk of premature death.

Scheduling Microbreaks into Your Work Routine: Getting Started

Now that you know all the surprising benefits of micro breaks, you may be wondering how to schedule these short breaks in your work routine. After all, it's so easy to get lost in the work that you lose track of time, and by the time you realize it, it has already been over a few hours in the same position.

Fortunately, you can break this cycle by trying the following ways to schedule microbreaks in your work routine.

Set Up a Timer

Set up a timer on your computer or smartphone to know when it's time to get up for a break. If you work on a height-adjustable standing desk like Essential Standing Desk (E2), you can use the programmable memory option to adjust the time for changing your position from sitting to standing and vice versa.

Stick to the Stand-Sit-Stretch Pattern

One of the ways to schedule microbreaks is to organize your work such that you can follow the sit-stand-stretch pattern.

The technique helps break down your work day into half-hour intervals where you spend 20 minutes sitting, followed by eight minutes standing. The remaining two minutes are used to incorporate any physical activity, whether it's a quick walk or a simple stretching exercise.

Following the pattern may not be viable for you if you work on a conventional desk. However, if you have a height-adjustable desk like Essential Standing Desk (E2), it can be easier for you to incorporate this movement pattern.

Besides simple at-desk stretches, you can also try out some quick high-intensity workouts.

Multi-Task While Taking a Microbreak

Since working from home is the new normal, you can use some of your microbreaks to multitask at home. Clear a small section of your room on every microbreak. At the end of the day or two, your entire area may be clean.

Focus on the Outside

When moving isn't an option when you take a microbreak, use it as an opportunity to look outside in nature.

Looking at some natural scenery will have a calming effect while providing you with all the benefits of microbreaks.

Key Takeaways

Microbreaks bring in several key advantages for your health and well-being as well as your productivity at work. Ideally, you should get up for a quick physical movement ranging between 40 seconds to 5 minutes once every 30 minutes. And while doing so may seem challenging, there are several creative ways you can try out to schedule microbreaks in your work routine. One of the simplest things that you may try out is looking outside at nature to regain focus and other amazing benefits of microbreaks.

So what are you waiting for?

Try out these approaches and maximize your health and productivity with a desk job.