“Booster Breaks”: A New Type of Work Break

THE ESSENTIAL COFFEE BREAK

We have all taken that 15 minute coffee break in the middle of our day, hoping that our newly caffeinated selves will survive the afternoon. It is no surprise that coffee is the most consumed beverage in Canada, with over 14 billion cups consumed annually (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2010). The popularity of coffee has made coffee breaks an integral component of workplace culture.  Unfortunately, traditional work breaks such as coffee and smoking work breaks are often used in an attempt to combat work-related stress and inactivity (Taylor, 2005). Since work breaks occur so routinely, what happens during these times can significantly affect overall public health.

THE WORK BREAK PARADIGM SHIFT

Historically speaking, work breaks have been used to lessen fatigue, injury, and boredom particularly for workers performing repetitive tasks (Daviglus et al., 2004). We need to extend beyond the notion of the traditional work break by developing practices that improve workers’ well-being rather than compensating for job-related stresses and strains.  

CUE THE “BOOSTER BREAK”

The epidemic of sedentary behaviour (Church et al., 2011), increased stress associated with work (Colligan & Higgins, 2006), and rising medical costs (Daviglus et al., 2004) have prompted new approaches to be considered. This is where the booster break comes in. Booster breaks are defined as “organized, routine work breaks intended to improve physical and psychological health, enhance job satisfaction, and sustain or increase work productivity” (Taylor et al., 2013). From an organizational perspective, booster breaks can enhance camaraderie, mutual support, and morale among co-workers. Examples of booster breaks are scheduled, 10-15 minute group breaks during which a trained facilitator (e.g. co-worker) leads employees through a prescribed sequence of stretches and strengthening exercises for major muscle groups. Other examples of booster breaks include yoga, tai chi, fruit and vegetable snacks, or facilitated meditation practices (Taylor, 2005).

The booster break is an alternative to traditional work breaks, requiring changes in workplace culture. (Taylor, 2005). For the health-conscious employee, the potential health benefits of the booster break may be enough to warrant participation. However, to change workplace norms, organizational support and incentives may need to be considered to encourage initial participation. Over time, the experiences of the booster break may prompt employees to become self-motivated.

“BOOSTER BREAK” BENEFITS

  • Boost health, job satisfaction, and productivity
  • Reduce stress, strain, and fatigue
  • Enhance workplace social interactions
  • Increase health awareness
  • Facilitate behaviour change

WHY IMPLEMENT THE “BOOSTER BREAK”?

  1. The booster break is rooted in the traditions of public health and behavioural sciences, which emphasize the prevention of disease and injury, and promotion of health and well-being through population-based interventions.
  2. Cumulative effects of small behaviour changes practiced routinely over time can accrue long-term health benefits.
  3. Work breaks represent an important, untapped opportunity for health promotion.

 

Can you envision the booster break being implemented at your workplace? How do you currently spend time during your work breaks? Let us know in the comments!

 

References

Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2010, October). The Canadian Coffee Industry Sub-Sector Profile. Retrieved from http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-product-sector/processed-food-and-beverages/the-canadian-coffee-industry/?id=1172237152079#footnote-

Colligan, T. W., & Higgins, E. M. (2006). Workplace Stress: Etiology and Consequences. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 21(2), 89–97. http://doi.org/10.1300/J490v21n02_07

Daviglus, M. L. (2004). Relation of Body Mass Index in Young Adulthood and Middle Age to Medicare Expenditures in Older Age. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 292(22), 2743. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.292.22.2743

Taylor, W. C. (2005). Transforming work breaks to promote health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 29(5), 461–465. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ampre.2005.08.040

Taylor, W. C., King, K. E., Shegog, R., Paxton, R. J., Evans-Hudnall, G. L., Rempel, D. M., & Yancey, A. K. (2013). Booster Breaks in the workplace: participants’ perspectives on health-promoting work breaks. Health Education Research, 28(3), 414–425. http://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyt001