When Is The Best Time To Take A Coffee Break?

by Jaime Lutz

You probably know by now that it's a good idea to take breaks while you're working so you don't get burned out. Now, scientists have pinpointed exactly when those breaks should occur. According to new research from Baylor University, the best time to take a coffee break is mid-morning — not in the afternoon. Even though the mid-afternoon is probably about when you usually feel sluggish and like you need a break, it seems that breaks taken earlier in the day are more restorative than their post-lunch cousins.

The researchers, led by Baylor University's Emily Hunger, Ph.D. and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., made this discovery by surveying 95 employees about their break habits. (Lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and socializing with coworkers all counted as breaks, by the way). The people who took breaks earlier in the workday were generally more energetic, more motivated, and more focused on their work. Apparently, this is because you only have these resources in limited supply throughout the day, and they're usually highest in the morning. As such, it's easier to restore those resources if you take a break after just a few hours. People who took breaks in the morning were also much less likely to experience the negative physical effects of work, like back aches, headaches, and eye strain. As if you needed an excuse to get up for a second cup of coffee.

How should you spend your break? Good news if you're not actually a coffee drinker: Apparently it doesn't really matter, as long as it's something you really enjoy doing. Even doing work projects you really enjoy at this time can be restorative, the researchers found. (By the way, if you are the kind of person who enjoys doing their work so much that just doing your work is enough of a break, I think you might have won the personality trait lottery). "Finding something on your break that you prefer to do — something that's not given to you or assigned to you — are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger," regardless of whether the break is worth related, according to lead researcher Emily Hunter.

Otherwise, productivity experts have found benefits from break activities like napping at work, exercising, going outside, and even browsing the Internet. When I remember to take a break (not nearly enough!), I like to spend it changing work locations to a couch or another part of the office (if you can! Obviously some people have assigned desktop computers), finding cute furniture to decorate my new apartment with on Pinterest, or texting a friend so I remember that work life does not equal my entire life.

Food for thought, right?

Images: T.W. Collins/Flickr; Giphy