Should you work during lunch?

The age-old lunchtime question: To work, or not to work. Although scarfing down a sandwich in front of your computer screen might seem like the obvious option on busy working days, you’ve always stopped asking yourself: Is this the best use of my time?

Possibly not. In reality, we believe it is time to reverse the myth that taking a real break for lunch is a waste of precious time. The reason: It’s an important part of the working day, really. You should work through lunch but this job is not the sort of work that is “sitting in a conference room debating stuff with your mouth full.” Then you should look at it as an opportunity to refresh mentally and get to know your colleagues better. Lunch time may be also the answer to feeling more optimistic and engaged at work in general. Let ‘s find that out.

Chaining to a desk or scarfing your lunch in your cubicle isn’t a formula for success-it ‘s a disaster formula. Employee efficiency, mental well-being and overall job performance tend to suffer without taking sufficient breaks from work. Overworked workers also struggle with constant stress, which can quickly lead to burnout of employees. While this not only has a negative effect on the safety and welfare of workers, it also has a negative impact on the bottom line.

That’s why it’s important for employers to start encouraging workers to take breaks during the workday – particularly lunchtime breaks. These breaks are important to allow the staff to de-stress and recover for the remainder of their working day. Even frequent breaks tend to increase overall work satisfaction. A recent Tork study reveals how important lunch breaks are in North America, and how rare they are in the workplace. According to the survey:

  • Nearly 20% of North American workers worry their bosses won’t think they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks, while 13% worry their co-workers will judge them.
  • 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.
  • 22% of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking.

And what does the knowledge and data tell us? Well, for one thing: it often seems like a requirement to work through lunch – but the fact of losing out on that midday break can have some serious repercussions. If you don’t work over lunch, you get two-fold benefits: It’s beneficial for your mental health and it makes you become a member of your team that is more involved / engaged.

Stepping away from your desk to eat is a chance for you to recharge your mental batteries and reset for the second half of the day. This is good news, as data shows that breaking from work-related tasks allows your brain to function better and to concentrate more fully. In fact, studies show that a 15 to 20-minute break is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy throughout the day.

But not all of that. Often there are several team-oriented perks. Having a break at lunch is an simple way to communicate with your colleagues and get to know them better. It’s a low-risk, no interaction pressure atmosphere and it helps build a sense of intimacy that is often lacking in workplaces. It opens the door to interaction troubleshooting, collaboration and communicating with people from various departments who you do not usually have the ability to connect with on a daily basis during the workday.

It’s also an opportunity to engage the social part of your brain that craves that emotional, human connection throughout the day and can be a place for organic connection-building that leads to new opportunities and friendships (not to mention it’s great for building trust and rapport.)

So what should you do when you feel like you legitimately don’t have time to take a lunch break? Here are some ideas for getting past that hurdle.

  1. Ask yourself: What do I gain from NOT taking lunch?
    Are the few minutes you spend working between hasty bites of sandwich really all that productive when you think about it? Or is it just a mental hangup/public perception issue? You might actually get more done if you give yourself permission to take a short break outside of your workspace.

2. Restructure or re-prioritize your workload.
If you have so much to do that you can’t take lunch, it’s got to change something. Find ways to increase productivity or offload less important / time-sucking activities so you’ll have at least 30 minutes per day for lunch. This might mean setting up a closed-door morning job sprint or attending a webinar this you don’t even need to attend. Find opportunities to optimize your productive work hours, whatever it takes.

3. Be deliberate and ask someone to join you.
When you find you can’t keep yourself responsible for having a real lunch hour, build it into your schedule by pairing it with a concerted action – like inviting a coworker to join you at a certain time. Since the other person is going to wait for you, you ‘re going to be more likely to hold up your end of the bargain and take a real break with time explicitly set aside to establish contact. If you’re very smart about it – keep a running list of people who you wanted to talk with at work, but by arranging lunch dates you didn’t have a chance to work through it.

The short answer to this burning question is clear: Connecting with your team members away from your office is the only job you should be doing during lunch. Using your lunch break as a chance to refresh your brain and develop deeper working family relationships.

Give yourself at least 30 minutes a day and bring it into your routine, and be strict about it within your limits. When you view it as an opportunity to know more about the people you work with, what they care about, struggle with, and need support with, you ‘re going to become a better member of the team – and a happier person. Your tummy will thank you too.

Check out my related post: What to do at your first month at a new job?

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