Examining the interplay of micro-break durations and activities for employee recovery: A mixed-methods investigation

J Occup Health Psychol. 2020 Apr;25(2):126-142. doi: 10.1037/ocp0000168. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


On a given workday, employees spend time at work doing tasks that are not work-related, potentially using these micro-breaks (i.e., short breaks that are less than 10 min) to attempt to recover depleted psychological resources such as energy and attention. However, most work break and recovery research has focused on how individuals recover from work during formal nonwork time with longer or unspecified time durations (e.g., lunch breaks, evenings, vacations), limiting theoretical and empirical understanding of whether employees can experience recovery within the workday via brief micro-breaks. In the current investigation, we first conducted interviews from 16 shift workers at a Fortune 500 company to develop research questions about how micro-breaks impact psychological resources and recovery experiences. We then used a randomized experiment with a sample of undergraduate students (n = 232) to test the impact of micro-break durations and activities on the recovery of psychological resources (i.e., energy and attention) and recovery experiences. Results show that some, but not all, micro-break conditions can help employees recover back to their baseline (i.e., prework task) levels of psychological resources following a micro-break. Overall, this experiment provides stronger levels of causal inference about the recovery process and presents new ideas regarding how micro-break durations influence well-being via psychological resource recovery. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).