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Booster Breaks at Work: Hit or Bust?

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

A few months ago, I wrote about the importance of taking breaks throughout the day in order to boost energy and productivity at work. I encouraged people to do this on their own, mainly because it never occurred to me that employers would furnish these breaks for their employees.

Consider me disproven. A recently published study explored how employees responded to daily breaks that were formally structured by their employers. These timed reprieves consisting primarily of physical activity were called “booster breaks,” I assume because their intention was to boost productivity and morale.

(Note: I’m still not sure how I feel about this name. It reminds me of a cross between sitting in an infant car seat and promoting my high school alma mater’s football team.)

In the study, researchers from universities in California and Texas explored the sustainability of booster breaks across five work sites. To do this, 35 employees were surveyed about their opinions and experiences regarding the booster breaks. Two work sites had implemented 15-minute booster breaks daily for one year, while the other three sites had been offering similar booster breaks for 6 months.

Were booster breaks a hit? Partially, but they were also a bit of a bust. The survey data revealed several perceived benefits of booster breaks:

  • Reduction in workplace stress
  • Increase in workplace enjoyment
  • Enhanced health awareness
  • Increase in health-related behavior change
  • Improved workplace social interaction

Evidence of these perceived benefits was encouraging. However, the respondents also noted a few drawbacks to booster breaks:

  • Lack of variety in booster break routines
  • Lack of management support
  • Need for a more mature name than “booster breaks” (Okay, I added that one on my own.)

I find this fascinating. I predicted that people wouldn’t like booster breaks because they felt forced to participate – but in fact, just the opposite occurred. Employees actually desired more support and nudging from management to participate in the activities!

Perhaps what we really need is a kick in the pants to get out of our desk chairs and start moving again. Maybe workers actually crave this kind of coercion, because they feel it’s for the sake of their own health instead of for the sake of company profitability.

What do you think? Would you like booster breaks at your job? Post a comment here and tell us what you think.

Source:

Taylor, W. C., King, K. E., Shegog, R., Paxton, R. J., Evans-Hudnall, G. L., Rempel, D. M., Chen, V., & Yancey, A. K. (2013). Booster breaks in the workplace: Participants’ perspectives on health-promoting work breaks. Health Education Research, Advance Access, doi: 10.1093/her/cyt001

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