Midmorning May Be the Best Time for a Coffee Break Study Says
A recent study from the Journal of Applied Psychology sheds a lot of light on the importance of the mid-morning coffee break – as well as the mid-afternoon walk break and other short breaks during the day. Research doctors Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu surveyed 95 employees over the course of a five-day work week and asked them to document every time they took a break throughout their workday. They then correlated the information found in a total of 959 questionnaires – approximately two breaks a day for each employee – and put together some interesting information for employers and employees alike.
Defining the “Coffee” Break
The doctors defined a “break” as any time during the work day that employees were not expected to engage in work-related activities. That included coffee breaks, lunch breaks, bathroom breaks and other formal or informal periods of time when workers might check personal email, socialize with coworkers or otherwise do things that were not part of their job descriptions.
The Midmorning Coffee Break – Why It’s Important
The biggest news out of this study was that, just as we’ve always suspected, midmorning is the most optimal time to take a coffee break. According to Hunter and Wu, breaking up the monotony of working hard throughout the morning pays off in increased energy, concentration and motivation for both employees and managers. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg on results from this study. In addition, Hunter and Wu found that:
- Frequent short breaks are more effective than one long break. Hunter said in a press release about the study that people are not like cell phones, which should be allowed to completely deplete before recharging. Instead, she noted, people need to recharge more frequently throughout the day to maintain their concentration, focus and energy.
- After a midmorning coffee break – with or without coffee – survey respondents reported fewer headaches, eyestrain, lower back pain and other somatic symptoms. In other words, employers who let their workers take a mid-morning break – just an hour or two into their mornings – are rewarded with employees who are less like to be in pain or uncomfortable later in the day. And employees who aren’t in pain are much more likely to be productive.
- In addition, employees who took midmorning coffee breaks, as well as other “better breaks” – breaks in which they do things they actually enjoy doing – reported feeling better about their jobs and feeling less emotionally depleted over the course of the day. When people get to take time off from monotonous activities to do something fun or relaxing, they enjoy their jobs more, and employees who feel good about their jobs are more likely to be motivated to work harder.
- The later in the day the break was, the less useful it was. That may be because these short breaks replenish energy, concentration and motivation, which are at their highest levels early in the day. Thus, a short break can bring these levels back up to full capacity. Later in the day, resources are more depleted, which makes it more difficult to refresh them to peak levels.
- While people get a lot out of coffee break time when they’re doing things that are not work-related, many also got the same boost when they took a break to do work-related activities that they enjoyed. In other words, when people are allowed to work on preferred activities over the course of the day, they’re less likely to experience burnout and more likely to enjoy their work and their jobs.