According to researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University, remote and hybrid workers are sacrificing their rest breaks due to the pressure to maintain an online presence. The study found that back-to-back online meetings and the fear of appearing inactive or not working hard enough prevent workers from taking breaks. The loss of regular interaction with colleagues and the shift from the office environment to working from home also contribute to the decline in rest breaks. To address this issue, the researchers suggest that employers adopt authentic leadership and establish company-wide social norms that encourage taking breaks and being away from the desk. They also recommend promoting movement and exercise throughout the workday, particularly in outdoor spaces, to improve employee well-being and productivity.
The study involved surveying 153 office workers about the factors affecting their ability to take effective rest breaks while working from home. The researchers identified several barriers, including poorly timed or prolonged online meetings without set start or finish times. The guilt associated with appearing inactive online or not working hard enough also discourages workers from stepping away from their computers, even though they recognize that breaks would enhance productivity. Additionally, the loss of regular interaction with team members and the absence of the office environment lead workers to engage in household tasks during their breaks instead of resting.
The researchers propose specific measures to support rest break behaviors and improve employee well-being. They suggest that employers establish designated times between meetings for breaks, schedule meetings at certain times of the day, or implement shorter and more effective meetings. Employers should also encourage movement and exercise throughout the workday, with a focus on outdoor spaces. By promoting self-regulation of rest break behaviors in the home environment and providing training or resources to prevent work-life interference, employers can enhance productivity and employee satisfaction.
Access the full study here