John Trugakos, who is an associate professor in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and holds a cross-appointment to the Rotman School of Management, said that they found that a critical element was having the freedom to choose whether to do it or not and the autonomy aspect helped to offset what they had traditionally thought was not a good way to spend break time.
The study surveyed a range of administrative employees at a large North American university.
Participants were asked about what they had done during their lunch breaks over a 10-day period. Researchers then asked participants' co-workers to report how tired their colleagues appeared by the end of each work day.
The study found that relaxing activities during lunch, freely-chosen by workers, led to the least amount of reported fatigue at the end of the day.
Getting work done resulted in employees appearing more tired, but that effect was reduced when employees felt it was their decision.
Socializing, however, also led to higher levels of fatigue; something the paper says has to do with whether workers feel free to decide if they want to socialize and who they're socializing with.
The study is set to be published in the Academy of Management Journal.