Mental Health

Science Says Your Brain Needs Breaks… To Nobody’s Surprise

Probably not a surprise to anyone doing back-to-back meetings of late, research has proved your brain needs breaks.

This research overseen by Microsoft’s Human Factors Engineering group is well worth the read. Still, if you don’t have time to take a break and read it, the main takeaway is that breaks are essential to make the transitions between meetings less stressful for employees. It doesn’t take much, even five minutes, for them to reset.

The trick is to not try and do something else during that break time. Michael Bohan, senior director of Microsoft’s Human Factors Engineering group, who oversaw the project, suggested, “Catch your breath and take a break away from your screen.” For the study, meetings were interspersed with 10-minute breaks, during which participants meditated with the Headspace app.

With sharing this research, Microsoft has adjusted settings to carve out time for breaks in Outlook. You can now have Outlook end your events a few minutes early or start them a few minutes late.

Make all your events shorter screenshot

In Outlook for Windows, Select File > Options > Calendar > Calendar options. Check the Shorten appointments and meetings checkbox and in the dropdown box choose End early or Start late. Use the drop-downs to select the number of minutes for events less than one hour and one hour or longer, then click OK.

Please Note:

Users should be running the latest Monthly Enterprise Channel build of Outlook Desktop. You can check to see what the latest build of Outlook is at this page. You can check what version of Outlook for Windows you are running by visiting What version of Outlook do I have?.

If you are a Mac user, unfortunately, you can’t currently set events to start late or end early from the new Outlook for Mac, but the app will honor the settings made in Outlook on the web or Outlook for Windows.

For more about adjusting these settings, please see Make all your events shorter automatically. To find out more about the study, see the WTI Pulse Report: Research Proves Your Brain Needs Breaks.

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Ian Aberle

Ian Aberle is an Adobe Creative Educator and the Senior IT Communications Specialist & Trainer for the Office of Information Technology (OIT). For over 25 years, he has helped the SMU community use technology and implement digital and web media through multiple roles with the Digital Commons, SMU STAR Program, and now OIT. Ian enjoys photography and road trips with his family in his free time.