Developing and Testing an Episodic Model of Work Breaks

  • Maximiliano Escaffi Schwarz

Student thesis: Phd


The aim of this thesis is to develop, test, and present a more comprehensive and integrated account of work breaks. Specifically, this thesis develops the Episodic Model of Work Breaks and tests some of its key assumptions in a laboratory experiment, online vignette experiment, field experiment, and event contingent diary study. The thesis addresses three theoretical issues and one empirical issue present in work breaks research. The first theoretical issue is that it remains unclear why workers take breaks. It is generally assumed that workers take breaks to rest from work, but empirical evidence does not confirm this assumption and suggests that this picture is partial. The second theoretical issue is that research about work breaks usually adopts a recovery perspective to describe the activities workers engage in during the break. However, empirical evidence suggests that workers normally engage in break behaviours that should be detrimental for well-being and performance, yet these behaviours do not appear to have negative impact on these workers. The third theoretical issue is that research about breaks has scarcely considered how breaks are related to other episodes of the workday. To address these three theoretical issues, the Episodic Model of Work Breaks proposes that the performance episodes before and after the break influence whether workers take breaks and what they do during these breaks. Moreover, the Episodic Model of Work Breaks proposes that to understand break effectiveness, it is important to examine the fit between the break, the worker’s goals, and the performance episode immediately after the break. Regarding the empirical issue, this thesis argues that research about breaks often suffers from endogeneity which inhibits causal inferences. To address this issue, this thesis mostly adopts more robust research designs that are causally identified. The results reported in this thesis support many of the hypotheses and reinforce the need for an episodic approach to study work breaks.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Hughes (Supervisor) & David Holman (Supervisor)


  • Episodic performance
  • Quantitative research methods
  • Work breaks
  • Recovery
  • Organisational behaviour

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