Work Breaks

Work breaks are interruptions to work in which work activities should not be carried out. They are, for example, intended for rest and recreation, provide a balance to work and enable personal interaction.

Work breaks are delimited conceptually from longer periods of rest and recreation outside working hours, such as rest periods or weekends and unscheduled work interruptions such as waiting times or disturbances of work processes. In addition, a difference is made between statutorily prescribed longer breaks and operationally organised and arbitrarily inserted concealed breaks.

Work breaks are a component of various theories. From the perspective of working time, stress and recovery research, paid breaks reduce working time. On the other hand, they enable the reduction of strain symptoms already during working time. From the point of view of various theories of motivation psychology, frequent breaks at short intervals are particularly advantageous. In emotion psychology, the positive effects of anticipating an imminent break play an important role. According to cognition and learning science, breaks improve learning performance, concentration and memory consolidation, namely through different cognitive mechanisms.

Current state of knowledge

A scoping review by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) summarises the state of scientific knowledge of rest breaks. It focuses on work breaks, rest regimes and time-related degrees of freedom in the organisation of breaks and considers their interrelations with (mental) health and well-being. It also describes the relations of breaks to motivation, job satisfaction and performance. The review also reveals research gaps and discusses options for actively influencing this factor.

The project "Mental Health in the Working World"

The scoping review on work breaks is part of the project "Mental Health in the Working World - determining the current state of scientific evidence". The project assesses mental load factors by means of the state of scientific knowledge.

For further information please refer to our German Website.


Working time

Essay 2018

(in German)

Under the "Working Hours" topic in the project entitled "Mental health in the working world - Determining the current state of scientific evidence", six scoping reviews were conducted to investigate the effects of very different aspects of working time on the well-being and mental health of …

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The impact of supplementary short rest breaks on task performance - A meta-analysis

Essay 2016

Within-shift rest breaks are important to prevent an accumulation of impairing short-term effects of strain over working time. In this meta-analysis (k = 11, N = 705), we investigated how supplementary, frequent short rest breaks affect task performance and strain. We found positive effects on …

To the Publication