The Association of Microbreaks with Work Performance: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

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Virginia Tech


Microbreaks are short, voluntary breaks taken during the workday that have been found to be beneficial in the recovery process as they are less structured and can be taken when an employee is feeling heightened levels of fatigue. Self-determination theory provides an important lens through which to study the possible association between microbreaks and work performance. Self-determination theory states that when an individual's needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are satisfied the individual will have intrinsic motivation which will drive performance. In this experience sampling study, I recruited employees to respond to four surveys per day for five days. Based on the results of 100 participants, using unconflated multilevel modeling I found that higher work engagement covaried with higher personal initiative. Using multilevel structural equation modeling and focusing on between-person relationships, I found that autonomy need satisfaction during microbreaks covaried with increased intrinsic work motivation, while relatedness covaried with decreased intrinsic work motivation. Also, focusing on the between-person relationships, higher intrinsic work motivation covaried with higher work engagement, which then covaried with higher personal initiative. At the between-person level autonomy influenced personal initiative indirectly via enhancements in work engagement extending from intrinsic motivation. In this dissertation, I provided a comparative analysis of microbreak activities and implications of need satisfaction on various work-related constructs.



Microbreaks, Performance, Self-determination theory