Do you take a lunch break? If you don’t, you’re unfortunately not alone.
In 1990 half of Americans took a lunch break of at least 30 minutes, reports a Gallup poll. But in 2012 only one-third of workers were taking a lunch break. Recent reports show these figures are getting worse and only 20% of Americans are now taking a break from their desk at lunchtime. Most workers now are eating lunch at their desk, which as we will see below is very detrimental to health and wellbeing. Statistics vary slightly from study to study but the general conclusion is that the lunch break in the USA (and around the world) is sadly disappearing. This is also despite the law in 22 US states that workers must take 30 minutes to one-hour lunch break.
I worked in the corporate world for nearly twenty years, and I can honestly say that I can count on two hands the number of times that I did NOT take a lunch break! Ten of those years I spent working predominantly in a home office, yet I still took the time to leave my office, go into the kitchen and have a lunch break even if I was on my own. A lunch break does not need to be long, but you do need to walk away from your desk, get something to eat and if possible go outside and breathe in the fresh air!
So Why Should You Take A Lunch Break?
1. Connect With Your Colleagues
Taking a lunch break allows you to connect with colleagues in your own and other departments if you have a central tea room or kitchen area. This is great for workplace relationships and morale. In modern workplaces, we now e-mail the person next to us. How about taking some time out and speaking with your colleagues as well?
2. Increases Your Afternoon Productivity
A 2011 study published in ‘Cognition’ journal showed that taking a small break from a task can actually cause you to be more productive over a prolonged period of time. You will also find that you are more productive in the afternoon and won’t be fighting the 3 pm fatigue (If you’ve hopefully eating a well-balanced healthy lunch too!)
3. Improved Concentration
A report conducted by Bristol University in the UK found that when workers exercised during their lunch break, they had 41% more motivation and 21% more concentration when they returned to their desk.
4. Stretch Your Body
Research shows that sitting is actually doing harm to our health! By staying at your desk all day you actually increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity. Not only that but we are causing an increase in stress both mentally and physically which will lead to musculoskeletal issues such as a stiff neck and shoulders.
5. Healthier Eating
Research shows that employees graze more when they sit at their desk all day. Also, if you don’t take a lunch break employees tend to go to a vending machine and eat junk food. If you take a lunch break, you are more likely to start eating healthier. You will also have better digestion as you won’t be gobbling down something unhealthy at your desk, at the same time as taking phone calls and checking emails.
Here Are 5 Simple Steps To Ensure You Take A Lunch Break. Start Today!
- Get Out Of The Office: Take a walk in the park with a friend and breath in some fresh air. Make a commitment to each other do this.
- Use Work Facilities: Sit in work canteen away from your desk and speak with your colleagues
- Make A Commitment: Put in your diary and block out that time so that it does not get booked with meetings
- Set Your Boundaries: When I worked in an office, colleagues would sometimes come up to me in the canteen and try to discuss work. I used to remind unless it was a life or death situation that I would be back at my desk shortly and they could come to see me then. It was important to let people know that this was my time away from the desk; to have a break and that they should also consider doing the same. It did seem to have a ripple effect.
- Start A Club: It may be a salad club, where you all have to contribute to lunch or it might be a book club where you all get together at lunch to discuss the latest bestseller. Whatever it is, by starting a club you’re making a commitment to step away from your desk.
Please don’t be disillusioned that by working through your lunch break you are going to win employee of the year. What is actually happening is that your productivity levels are dropping throughout the day and your work is being affected. What needs to start happening in the workplace is that managers lead by example. So start holding regular team lunches and encourage employees to take a break from their desk. You will find everybody benefits!