A study by scientists at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga suggests that detaching from work during a lunch break can boost energy and help you to better respond to the demands of the day.
That is the message behind a new study that finds early-career doctors — and the rest of us — can be better at our jobs if we simply set aside as little as 30 minutes a day for some “me” time.
The study, published in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine, found that active recovery activities like exercising and volunteering can help employees recover quickly and respond better to their jobs’ demands.
Researchers focused on the work and rest patterns of 38 early-career physicians from a teaching hospital in the Southeast. Of the participants, 63.2 percent were male and the median age was 29. The typical physician can average an 80-hour work week, leaving little opportunity for leisure and sleep.
“Residents are a very unique population, the stressors that they engage with throughout the day are a lot more significant than those of the average American. Therefore, these moments of replenishment are that much more important,” said Dr. Nicole Cranley, the study’s lead researcher. Dr. Cranley did the research while a UF doctoral candidate in public health and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The study assessed the time early-career physicians spend at work versus the time they spent on sleep and leisure, their ability to detach from work during non-work hours and whether they engaged in active or passive recovery activities. Physicians ranked activities they engaged in at home and at work for how draining or energy boosting they were. The results showed that the time early-career physicians spent on work exceeded the time they spent on sleep and leisure activities combined — and although eating was the most highly ranked at-work activity, even lunch breaks were consumed by work.
“They grab things and go, or they are eating while they are in a conference or listening to a lecture. There really isn’t that time when they are not doing something related to work,” Dr. Cranley said.
Researchers also found that the participants had trouble psychologically detaching from work and that they engaged in more passive forms of recovery in their non-work time. While passive recovery, like watching television, is not necessarily harmful, it also does not help to boost energy levels beyond the baseline like active recovery activities can.