Why you need to take a proper lunch break

A 1-hour (or 30-minutes) downtime really does make all the difference.

A recent study from Right Management reported that 80% of us eat lunch at our desks. Eating a greasy slice of pizza while hunched over your desk does not make for a happy person or a productive work day. It’s time to take back your well-deserved lunch break.

Why we don’t take a lunch break:

  • We are all so STRESSED OUT. — Pace of life just keeps getting faster and faster. We’re scrambling to keep up. We say “if I just power through this I can get on top of it” but it doesn’t work.
  • We’re worried about optics. — If your boss or colleagues or the people who work for you all work through lunch you start to feel like you have to. You forget that you have a choice.
  • We think we’re more important than we actually are. — We’ve lost perspective. Your company isn’t going to go under if you take your lunch break.

Why we should take a lunch break:

  • Mental health (Physical health too) — We have to stop killing ourselves for our jobs. 1/4 of the people I work with have an injury or illness from work stress. Don’t let it get to that point. Stepping away from the stress lets you breathe and lets you move.
  • Productivity (This is so counterintuitive) — We’re working through our lunches because we want to get more done, but it actually makes us less productive. Your brain needs fuel and it needs a break. When you give yourself a break you’re more creative and a better problem-solver. (e.g., often you’re trying really hard to solve a problem but the solution comes to you when you take a walk.)
  • You can’t do good work when you’re hangry! — Taking a break also reduces stress, which makes you more pleasant to work with. So much of our work is collaborative and collaboration isn’t easy when you’re a grouch.

Sarah’s 30-day lunch break experiment – what happened:

  • I was more productive! — This was surprising even to me. I thought I’d get more done powering through lunch. Not so. I felt less stressed, more focused, and more clear-headed.
  • Unexpected ripple effect in my personal life. — I had more left in the tank at the end of the day. I went to yoga more. I cooked more. (I normally hate cooking so that’s a big deal.)
  • Some days were epic failures. — On a day I had a 10am greasy breakfast sandwich and Chinese food at 3pm. I was super stressed and wasn’t even breathing properly. It was like I was holding my breath. On another day I had a giant brownie and OJ. Terrible choice. Sugar crash. Some days I’d take a lunch break but spend it sitting somewhere else. I felt the best and the most productive on days when I ate real food and went for a walk.

How to take back your lunch break:

  • Get over your excuses. — E.g., I have too much to do, I’ll have to work later, nobody else takes a lunch, I’ll lose focus, etc.
  • Be okay with questions and a bit of pushback. — When you change your behaviour people will notice and ask you about it. Just tell them you’re trying to take care of your health and boost productivity.
  • Start slow. Be gentle. — Maybe do a week-long lunch experiment instead of a 30-day one like I did. Or choose a couple of days a week as your non-negotiable lunch break days. Know that you’ll falter some days. You’re human. Try again tomorrow.