Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But is lunch the most important time of day? Lunch, both the actual food you eat and the break that should come with eating that food, has been proven to be important for our general health and increased productivity. Yet despite these findings, our lunch “hours” vary greatly.
Some of us have a very regimented work day that requires taking lunch at a certain time while others take lunch whenever we want - or not at all. You might be able to eat lunch in your cubicle while “multi-tasking” and run the risk of spilling ketchup on the T.P.S. Report, or you may prefer to eat lunch outdoors for a complete change in scenery. Regardless of your preferences, it’s fair to say that we each have a unique lunch break. So why talk about it?
According to Self.com, 18% of workers don’t leave their desks during lunch. Beyond the potential for making a mess, this divides focus and makes individual tasks take longer. Many people may not want to take time away from work, but studies have shown that taking the time to refuel may actually improve focus and timeliness on projects. Head of Clinical Development at Aviva UK Health, Dr. Doug Wright reports, "It's...important for people to take a break from their desks, where possible, as this can help improve both morale and efficiency for employees." (officebroker.com)
Most of us don’t work at a place like Target Corporate, who recently unveiled an amazing “break room.” Even if your organization can’t offer a modern setting, try to find a room or place in your office or building where you can be away from your work for your lunch break or get outside and go for a walk.
For example, I work at a school with a staff lounge, which is a pretty busy place during our three lunch periods. Over the years, eating lunch with a variety of people has been a helpful way to build rapport with others. Last year a few of us “support staff” decided to set up a time to eat lunch together. The plan was that we would try each day to meet at the same time. Some days we aren’t all able to make it, but this has been a great way to strengthen both our friendships and our working relationships. Most days it is a true reprieve from the stacks of work on our desks.
Maybe you don’t want to hang out with your co-workers. That’s okay. But you should still try to find some time and place to get away from your desk and eat your meal - “even a small lunch can renew your energy and help you feel refreshed and ready to take on the next several hours” (Livestrong). I would posit that even a small break away from work will have the same benefits.
What is holding you back from eating lunch or taking a lunch break? Here are three steps to help make lunch a regular part of your day:
1) Schedule it. If you bounce from meeting to meeting and appointment to appointment, make sure you schedule some down time for lunch. Block out 20-40 minutes each day for a break from work.
2) Hang Out. Find some friends to eat lunch with. This provides some accountability and a good reason to get out of the cubicle. Ask the Job Coach shares some important reasons why eating lunch at work can help your career. Your friends don’t have to work in the same organization, though - perhaps they’re in the same building or a block away. Scheduling some quality time together is the key. Everything is better with friends, especially lunch.
3) Eat it! Bring food that you will enjoy and you’ll be more likely to eat it. There are lots of easy and healthy freezer options out there that make lunch planning a breeze. One of my co-workers meets with friends on Sunday evening and they each bring prepared food to share for lunch for the week.
Now go out there and conquer the world of lunch!