How Micro Breaks can Boost Employee Mental Health

After a turbulent few years, it's no surprise that employee mental health has taken a significant hit. Regulating mental health while at work is an important part of corporate wellness and provides an opportunity to take charge of workforce wellbeing. Taking micro breaks is a small, but powerful, way to improve overall employee wellness.

Wellness and HR professionals recognize the importance of giving employees the tools and resources needed to maintain a mentally healthy work environment. Small healthy behaviors can provide a realistic starting place. One example that can make a lasting impact, improve resilience, and be a healthy coping mechanism to combat pressure: 10-minute micro breaks for yourself and the people you manage.

What Are Micro Breaks?

Micro breaks are moments that allow employees to reset and restart. Unlike a half-hour lunch break, micro breaks should occur many times throughout the day to prevent a build-up of stress. Functional and fun, they can stave off burnout by breaking up tasks into manageable portions. They can even be facilitated by tracking apps or other forms of wellness technology

Ideally, a worker should take a 10 minute break for every hour of work. This may be divided up into one 10-minute break every 60 minutes or one 5-minute break every 30 minutes. The system breaks up repetitive tasks throughout the workday and provide a chance to relax and engage in easy movement, like stretching or walking, and a chance to briefly unwind.

Let's take a look at some more benefits of micro-breaks.

Small breaks can...

Lower Stress and Boost Resilience

83% of American employees are regularly stressed about their jobs. 76% have noticed that this stress impacts their personal relationships. Anxiety about work can cause a serious strain on the lives, happiness, and well-being of workers, especially when compounded over time.

The science is nothing new: in 1989, researchers found that short breaks between professional tasks can reduce the heart rate of those completing the tasks. This strategy also led to a decrease in human error during task completion. 

We've all experienced the renewed perspective we gain from stepping back, taking a breath, and starting again. Lowered stress and higher performance can lead to boosted resilience and mental wellbeing, increased employee satisfaction and greater productivity while at work. 

Decrease Eyestrain

Eyestrain is a common outcome of staring at a screen for a long period of time. It can lead to fatigue and headaches as well. Additionally, it can lead to long-term vision problems such as nearsightedness.

Micro breaks provide an opportunity to look at other fixed points in the room. Looking at points closer and farther away will dilate and constrict the pupils, stretching and moving them much the same way we move and stretch other muscles. This can decrease the impact of eyestrain to help prevent pain or eye problems over time.

Provide Opportunities for Movement

Office workers often struggle with physical health issues that stem from sitting all day. Some problems include back pain, stiffness in the neck, circulation issues in the legs and feet, obesity, and more.

A micro break is a regular reminder to stand up, walk around, stretch, and move. A few ideas: walk around the perimeter of the workplace, or go outside and get some sunshine. Do simple stretches at your desk, in the break room, or in your living room. Walk up and down a staircase, out to the mail box, or to let your dog outside for a few minutes. When you come back to work, you'll likely feel relaxed and refreshed.

Increase Focus

University of Illinois researchers found that micro-breaks can improve focus. Thee study consisted of giving two groups of people memory tasks that lasted 50 minutes. One group was not allowed any breaks while the other group was given 2 short breaks throughout the task.

The control group's focus decreased over time and they became less productive. However, this did not happen to the test group. Their focus and efficiency were consistent over the 50-minute span. Apply this to an 8-hour day, over weeks and months, and it might just add up to a significant increase in focus and productivity. 

Provide Consistent Motivation

The hope of gaining an immediate reward for completing a task motivates us. Intrinsic motivation is the best possible reason to work because it means that you love what you're doing. However, even those with jobs they love don't always want to be performing work-related tasks.

That's where extrinsic motivation can be helpful. A reward motivates us to get things done, and a small reward like a break can be an effective incentive. You may not be able to take 30-minute breaks all the time, but taking a micro break is realistic. 

Use micro breaks as rewards for getting specific tasks done. For example, after you complete a spreadsheet or finish talking to a difficult client, you can get up and take a lap around the office. This is something to look forward to so that you complete tasks more efficiently.

Increase Productivity

The efficiency-related benefits of micro breaks aren't just wishful thinking. Studies show that they increase job productivity and improve performance.

Researchers analyzed data from 22 studies conducted over 3 decades. They noted that employees who broke up work tasks frequently with 10-minute breaks were less tired when completing various tasks. This lead to higher overall productivity.

The analyzed studies were consistent in this conclusion across the board.

The findings are especially amazing considering the ways that the studies varied. Some employees completed work simulations after a break while others completed unrelated cognitive tests. All of the people who took micro breaks performed better than the control groups.

Keep Your Employees Healthy

Micro breaks are a small but helpful way to help employees improve mental health and productivity at work. But there are many more robust strategies that are proven to help minimize employee stress and prevent burnout, while improving employee morale, boosting company culture, and improving overall employee wellness on a larger scale. Wellness technology is evolving with the modern workforce and can provide a corporate wellness solution that's right for your workplace.

CoreHealth is committed to informing you about ways that you can keep workers both mentally and physically fit in the workplace. Contact us to discuss more ways that you can keep yourself and others at their best while in the office.