Despite experiencing high levels of stress, workers frequently avoid taking breaks

DNVN - Even though high workloads result in high levels of stress, fatigue, and subpar performance, new research indicates that they may actually deter workers from taking breaks at work.

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Employees frequently continued working despite wanting to take a break, according to University of Waterloo researchers. Employees may have felt under pressure to keep working in order to complete everything by the deadline.

"Our research provides a comprehensive account of the processes involved in the decision to take a break and provides insights into how employees and managers can make more effective use of breaks at work, potentially improving both well-being and performance," said James Beck, professor of industrial and organisational psychology at Waterloo.

Despite experiencing high levels of stress, workers frequently avoid taking breaks. (Illustrative image).

Despite experiencing high levels of stress, workers frequently avoid taking breaks. (Illustrative image).

107 workers were questioned by researchers about why they took breaks and why they didn't in order to conduct the study. Then, over the course of five days, they twice daily surveyed another 287 workers about their sleep quality, fatigue, concerns about their performance, workload, and the number of breaks they take each day.

Although previous studies have shown that breaks can improve employee performance and well-being, the researchers also discovered that if workers believe their managers discourage taking breaks at work, they may be less likely to take them. While it's possible that there's a misconception that breaks are counterproductive, Phan points out that many workers take breaks because they're dedicated to maintaining their focus and high levels of performance.

"We recognise that it may not always be possible for employees to take more breaks, but if employers can promote employee well-being by addressing the conditions that can make work unpleasant, they may be able to reduce the number of breaks needed," said Dr. Vincent Phan, first author of the study, which he led as part of his doctoral thesis in industrial and organisational psychology at Waterloo.

The researchers anticipate that further study will examine broader structural and contextual factors that affect break-taking and that their findings will contribute to promoting employee well-being.

Journal Reference: Vincent Phan, James W. Beck. Why Do People (Not) Take Breaks? An Investigation of Individuals’ Reasons for Taking and for Not Taking Breaks at Work. Journal of Business and Psychology, 2022; 38 (2): 259 DOI: 10.1007/s10869-022-09866-4


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