Do Coffee Breaks Sabotage Productivity?

Most of us are accustomed to taking coffee breaks or walking around the office throughout the workday to recharge our batteries, but according to a series of studies by Charlotte Fritz, an assistant professor at Portland State University, these microbreaks actually hamper rather than help productivity.

Fritz asked office workers to report their energy levels after different types of microbreaks during the workday. Surprisingly, the microbreaks that didn't have to do with work, such as making personal phone calls, getting a glass of water or taking a Twitter break, didn't boost energy levels and, in some cases, made participants feel even more tired. Listening to music and planning for the weekend also drained employees' energy.

Not all breaks are bad, though. Fritz discovered that work-related microbreaks, like writing a to-do list or heading to a colleague's desk to praise him or her, boosted vitality levels and energized office workers. And, of course, downtime after work and vacations helped workers feel better during their workday.

"It's clear that people need to get away from work in some way or another to recharge their batteries," Fritz told Harvard Business Review. "I started my research looking at vacations. Then weekends. Then time between workdays. Then lunch breaks. Now microbreaks. What we need to do to keep ourselves up and running varies with the time frame, however. This research seems to show that on the job, it's more beneficial to energize yourself through work-related activities."

Are you surprised by Charlotte Fritz's findings?

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