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Mindful microbreaks Work Life Balance Zen philosophy

Taking regular short breaks from work has been shown to contribute to one’s well-being, performance, and recovery. Despite the benefits of microbreaks, people, however, find it hard to incorporate them in their routine. To encourage people to take regular microbreaks from continuous on-screen work, we present Zenscape, a novel tangible system that offers subtle reminders to engage in non-work-related creative micro activities, through the stirring water action and sound. Zenscape integrates the ideologies of the Zen philosophy and mindfulness in its design to offer necessary disengagement from work just in time of need and aims to nurture mindfulness in these brief moments. The system features a mini Zen garden consisting of sand and stones, and a water cup with a stirrer, all offering multiple micro activities for the user to get an escape from their work. Unlike time management apps, we do not target productivity, but rather focus on nurturing mindfulness in these brief moments.

Made with by Rohit Ashok Khot, Jung-Ying (Lois) Yi, & Deepti Aggarwal

Research Publications

Rohit Ashok Khot, Jung-Ying (Lois) Yi, and Deepti Aggarwal. 2022. Designing for Microbreaks: Unpacking the Design Journey of Zenscape. To appear in Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI'20), ACM.

Duration: 2 months
Duration: 3 months
Field Study
Duration: 6 months

Zenscape in action.


Through Zenscape, we present the framing of microbreaks through the lens of Zen philosophy. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first system that emphasizes the quality of the microbreaks instead of the productivity to support positive wellbeing of the individuals. We presented insights on how microbreaks play out in a work from home setting. Working from home presents more distractions and participants reported that coming back to work was sometimes challenging as they got stuck in doing some house chores. With no peer pressure at home, there was no one to remind them to come back to work. It is important to design for this ‘new’ normal of work from home context and also to think beyond. Additionally, with more countries adopting the hybrid work model post-COVID with people working partly from both home and office settings, future works also include investigating how this change affects the microbreak schedule of people; and how technology can support a smooth shift between home and office work setup.


Breaks, relaxation, socialization activities and vacations are necessary for people to get detached from work, generate positive emotions and recover from work stress. However, COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders have made these activities impossible. When people cannot get the needed rest and recover from work, they are more likely to feel depressed and emotionally exhausted. We need solutions that work within the realities of current and changing situations globally. Zenscape responds to this through a subtle and Zen inspired design. Zenscape is the first tangible system that aims to encourage people to embrace microbreaks in their everyday work routine, going beyond the traditional reminder and notification systems.


The contribution was a novel artifact that provides a solution to promote micro breaks in the manner of practicing mindfulness that also contributes to the greater HCI community. This paper explained in detailed the reasoning behind taking a mindfulness approach to micro breaks, as well as, the inspiration and methods of creating Zenscape. Design decisions were thought out in depth (i.e. choosing the right cup, exploring the notification mechanism.) The pictures and diagrams provided displayed a clear, accurate representation on what was built and how the system is supposed to be used.

Annoymous Reviewer

ACM DIS 2022