Taking breaks at work to text or play Angry Birds on your phone might sound like the opposite of productive — but now psychologists are saying that it might actually boost your efficiency and morale at the workplace.
Researchers from Kansas State University found that people who took little breaks every few hours were actually happier and more productive than people who weren’t allowed to distract themselves for little “microbreaks.” “By interacting with friends or family members through a smartphone, or by playing a short game, we found that employees can recover from some of their stress to refresh their minds and take a break,” lead researcher Sooyeol Kim, a doctoral student in psychological sciences, said in the press release.
Kim studied 72 full-time employees from different industries and found that they only spent an average of about 22 minutes “playing” on their smartphones. He then developed an app that the participants installed on their phones, which measured their usage during work hours and divided the usage into entertainment (Angry Birds, Candy Crush) or social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). After the work day, the participants described their sense of well-being. Indeed, the people who spent small breaks on their phones were happier and more productive.
Kim believes that it’s almost impossible for an employee to concentrate for 8 hours straight every day. If they’re not on Facebook, they might find another way to distract themselves — whether going to buy a candy bar or chatting face-to-face with co-workers. But these short distractions are typically a good thing — as long as they don’t last too long. “A smartphone microbreak can be beneficial for both the employee and the organization,” Kim said in the press release. “For example, if I would play a game for an hour during my working hours, it would definitely hurt my work performance. But if I take short breaks of one or two minutes throughout the day, it could provide me with refreshment to do my job.”
The Importance Of A Break
Of course, playing on your phone isn’t the only way you can reduce your stress at work; in fact, there are plenty of healthy ways to sharpen your concentration and keep you energized. Exercising in the morning, on your lunch break, or after work can significantly reduce your stress. Be sure to eat well throughout the day to keep your energy up, but avoid sugary foods so you don’t crash later in the day. Getting enough sleep and staying away from drinking on weekdays is probably the best way to ensure productivity.
And make sure to take frequent short breaks to help you feeling refreshed throughout the day. Stress and anxiety can impair your work ethic, so make it more of a priority to keep it in check. “These days, people struggle with a lot of different types of stressors, such as work demands, time scheduling, family issues or personal life issues,” Kim said in the press release. “We need to understand how we can help people recover and cope with stressors. Smartphones might help and that is really important not only for individuals, but for an organization, too.”