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Breaks at work are important – and even raise productivity

(Vienna, 17th March 2014) According to the latest findings by Gerhard Blasche, relaxation researcher at the Centre for Public Health at the MedUni Vienna, the individual’s attitude towards breaks at work makes a huge difference. This is because it is the only way to relieve the pressure at work and, at the same time, improve wellbeing and the ability to perform.

Breaks at work are becoming more and more important. A significant reason for this is the fact that pressure at work has shot up in the last 20 years. Breaks help to deal with this pressure. It does however depend very much on the individual as to how relaxation and breaks are observed at work thereby resulting in more tiredness or less. This is the central argument of a study recently completed at the MedUni Vienna.

For this purpose the study director, Gerhard Blasche from the Centre for Public Health at the MedUni Vienna, looked at how nurses feel at the start and finish of a 12-hour shift.

According to the initial findings of the study, it is above all the individually tailored breaks that make the decisive difference: the "attitude towards breaks" in a company is strongly influenced by individual employees. Says Blasche: "Those employees, for whom relaxation is more important, take more frequent breaks than those who accord it a lower importance. At the end of the day more breaks lead to less tiredness and a greater ability to perform."

A good "attitude towards breaks" benefits companies and staff
This brings benefits for all involved: from US studies it is well-known that more breaks at work not only benefit the employee but are also make sense for the employer. According to these, breaks do not reduce productivity but might even increase it.

Blasche therefore puts in a plea on the one hand for a workplace environment promoting breaks and, on the other, for more personal responsibility on the part of the employees: "At a time when everyone worked on an assembly line breaks were clearly defined. In today’s service-oriented society at least the theoretical room to manoeuvre for breaks is much greater." It is in both parties’ interests that this autonomy should be made more use of and encouraged more strongly by company and employees.

Better shorter, but more often – tips for the right break at work
A few simple tips to improve the working day:
• As a basic rule, you should take a short break at least every two hours.
• It’s better to take shorter but then more frequent breaks: ideally a five to ten minute break after one to two hours of work.
• Fixed rituals help in taking breaks. For example, a fruit break in the morning or one, two small coffee breaks in the afternoon.
• And very important: you should not put off taking a break until you simply can’t do any more from sheer exhaustion. That’s when it is actually already too late. Breaks are better taken upon completing a piece of work or, at the latest, when the first signs of tiredness become apparent.