We’re all guilty on this one. We’ve all done it. The quick desk-snacking, the in-between-meeting munching, the one-finger-on-the-email, one-hand-on-the-toasted-sandwich typing. Lunchtime has become a myth in the modern workplace. With deadlines looming, workloads expanding and performance appraisals around the corner, we all know the feeling … there just isn’t time to take lunch!
Today I want to bring you in on a little secret – one that progressive companies already know and implement. Lunchtime is holy time. I want this to be written in every office manual and preached at every staff meeting. Like the refrain of a lunchtime revolution. Lunchtime is holy time. Not only because I want everyone to be well-fed and nourished, but because I want you to:
- boost your productivity,
- build your resilience, and
- decrease your stress.
Most people fall into the trap of thinking that eating lunch at their desk or, the horror, skipping lunch all together will lead to higher levels of productivity. The opposite is actually true. Skipping lunch costs you. Stress is cumulative during the day and if we don’t do small things throughout the day like taking lunch away from our desks, our stress never gets the change to ‘reset’ and decrease. High stress in turn affects our concentration, decision-making abilities, judgement and executive functioning. I’m guessing your job requires all of the above. Research has shown that taking the time to eat lunch away from your desk, actually improves your productivity and work-speed afterwards.
Another benefit is that we can limit the sneaky calorie intakes and weight-gain from eating at our desks. Various studies have shown that people who eat at their desks gain more weight, and are less aware of what they are eating than people who eat away from their desks. You will also become a more mindful eater, enjoy your food more and feel more satisfied afterwards.
So stop working through lunch, mulling over the complicated problem with your just dunked rusk dripping over your keyboard. It doesn’t help staring at the screen. Rather, take a walk, get away from your desk and eat your lunch somewhere else. On a sensory level, you are then using your movement and visual systems to reboot your brain. Hopefully you engage in some social connection which helps even further. Not everyone has the luxury of a full hour lunch, so even 30 or 15 minutes (though not ideal) is better than nothing at all.
If you try this for a full week, you will see that your ability to work post-lunch improves. You will experience less of that dreaded post-lunch slump. To make even better use of your lunch, make sure you pack something crunchy and healthy like nuts or carrots, and limit refined carbs and sugary drinks in your lunchbox.
Progressive workplaces and even some countries are getting on the “lunchtime is holy time” bandwagon. In Canada there is a “desks are for working, not eating” policy spreading like wildfire. Studies also show that companies with policies around no eating at your desk have better relationships among workers and improved teamwork.
Convinced but still scared to try it? Just remind yourself, and your co-workers, that the world will not end if you are away from your desk for 30 minutes. Try it, I dare you…
By Karlien Terblanche