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New Microsoft research shows our brains need breaks from meetings

The Visitor’s Center at Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington.
The Visitor’s Center at Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington. (Image credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images for Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft ran a study to measure the electrical activity of brains during meetings.
  • Brains not provided breaks between meetings endured higher stress levels.
  • Microsoft has updated Outlook to have a feature for scheduling organization-wide breaks.

Microsoft has amassed quite the collection of research (opens in new tab) on how day-to-day work is changing amidst our brave new pandemic world. And in the company's latest addition to that collection, they've now published a study (opens in new tab) showing the results of what happens when you subject someone's brain to two hours of meetings without breaks. Spoiler alert: The results ain't pretty.

As a direct tie-in to Outlook's new feature that allows for the customization of organization-wide scheduling defaults to include time for breaks, Microsoft published a study on why breaks matter. The company's Human Factors Lab had 14 people participate in video meetings while wearing caps that measured their brains' electrical activity. Those people were then subjected to two sessions' worth of exhausting meetings.

The sessions took place on two consecutive Mondays. One session involved enduring four half-hour meetings back-to-back, while the other did the same but injected 10-minute breaks between meetings. As you might guess, the people without breaks suffered from higher stress levels.

Microsoft Study

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

So, in conclusion: Microsoft has confirmed that human beings need breaks to survive the daily grind with their brains' relative health intact. Surprise! Fingers crossed that Microsoft conducts another study validating the need for monthly company-expensed employee vacations to Hawaii (in addition to ten-minute meeting breaks).

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

7 Comments
  • On avg. Norwegians have 230 work days per year, and a standard work week consists of 37.5 hours devided between 5 days. In the summer we have 4 - 5 weeks off, when we turn 60 we have 6 weeks off. 3 of those weeks have to be continuous. Then there are, I don't know, 15-20 other holidays spread out through the year. Most people have those days off, and those who work are payed extra. And, if we are sick, we can take some days off to get better, or a longer period of time if needed, still getting payed. Some foregniers think this is crazy, perhaps it's really not.
  • Kiss my grits. ;) Here (US), many places still feel if you have time to actually take vacation days, you must not have enough to do. I hear some places are worse. Some places if you aren't putting in unpaid overtime, you are slacking.
  • Oh, I forgot. We also get 12 months paid maternity leave. 18 weeks are for the mother, the rest of the time can be devided between the two as one like. Also, after that each parent have the right to 12 months leave each, unpaid, but without loosing ones job. Even if it sounds counter productive, if you sum it all up it's really not... You just need to think broader.
  • Yep, that's definitely the truth.
  • Son of a gun! Who'd have thought we needed breaks? Glad someone studied that.
  • Actually, although it seems like a waste of time and money to confirm what is obvious, I am glad they did the study anyway. The research can be shown to managers who don't let their people take breaks. For example, I live in a state where the vast majority of employers absolutely hated to even consider the possibility of allowing their employees to work from home (WFH). They simply didn't trust their employees. They were convinced so powerfully of "the fact" that people can't be trusted to do their job, that they refused for decades to try it on a small basis. It took lockdowns brought about by COVID to show these employers that, by golly, people actually will do their jobs when WFH. Who da thunk it??? It's sad that it took a pandemic to demonstrate that people are actually trustworthy.
  • D'oh! Ain't that bleeding obvious. Maybe now Microsoft will rebrand “Teams for Personal Use” to something much more less work oriented.