Why You Should Always Take Your Lunch Break
Historically speaking, we are working longer hours than ever before. New technology has blurred the boundaries between work and non-work spheres. We’re answering emails after 5pm, taking phone calls on holidays, and maybe most glaring, deciding to skip our lunch breaks in favour of doing more work.
Working longer in more nonstandard hours means there’s no longer a communal time for everyone to head out and grab a sandwich. And there’s a feeling that you’re supposed to be “always available” at work now, which often leads to people skipping out on lunch, or choosing to scoff down food at their desk (big no-no, guys).
But while you might think that you’re doing your business a favour by working through or taking just a short slice of what is meant to be your lunch break, the truth is quite the opposite. As psychologist Frank J. Sileo, founder and executive director of the Centre for Psychological Enhancement in New Jersey, told Entrepreneur, a lunch break is vitally important for your physical and mental health. “Studies have shown that taking a lunch break can reduce stress. Time for relaxation away from work has also been correlated with heightened productivity and creativity.”
Here’s six simple reasons we need to quit the bizarre martyr culture we’ve created for ourselves and take our damn lunch breaks.
You need to eat
This is a no-brainer. Our bodies need energy and hydration to function properly, and this fact won’t change just because you’re having a busy day at work.
Food is fuel for your body, and it’s also nourishment for your brain. By taking the time to have your lunch, it will encourage you to eat more mindfully, and guard against overeating. This is in contrast, then, to that feeling when you’re eating at your desk distracted by emails or tasks and then realise you’ve finished your entire meal before you’ve even looked down or tasted it.
It can replenish your mental state
We only have a certain amount of mental energy, so it’s vital to our ability to focus, regulate our behaviour, be creative and make decisions that we take regular breaks. Even just a short burst of time alone with your thoughts can be just what your emotions need to recharge and replenish your mental state for the remainder of the day.
It’s great for networking
Taking a lunch break with coworkers can be a great way to network, bond and build a stronger team. Use this time to gain insight into their position and their role in the company’s success. Doing so will help you become more industry-savvy and maybe even find a mentor or friend in the process (after all, they say you spend more time with your office buddies than with your spouse!)
This, of course, depends on whether you consider yourself an extrovert (someone who gets energised by social situations and interactions) or an introvert (those who find social situations somewhat draining and uncomfortable) as the latter might prefer to recharge solo – which is totally fine.
It gives you the opportunity to move your body
If you’re desk bound for the majority of the day, getting up and going to lunch is often the only opportunity you’ll get to stretch your legs, bar going to the bathroom (which, by the way, depends on how much water you’re drinking – hey, are you drinking enough water?) Just getting a few extra steps in during lunch can allow you to stretch those stagnant muscles and wake your body up in the middle of the day.
It will help prevent burn out later on
I’d venture to say “burn out” was the office buzz word of 2016. Burn out, as described by The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD, is “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” It’s got a lot to do with experiencing chronic stress too – something that feels all too familiar to those of us starting out in the work force. If left to fester beneath the surface, burn out can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance.
It’s clear the choices you make in the present can have real effects on how you feel later on. That’s true for something as trivial as taking an hour out of your day to eat lunch.
It’s great for productivity too
How you eat likely affects how productive you are for the rest of the day – which is a nice way of saying don’t eat at your goddamn desk. Taking a few steps away from your office or your computer screen gives you room to breathe and recuperate and is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day.
Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at UC-Davis, says, “never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative.” She adds: “It sort of exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections you can if your brain is more rested. If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favours.” Truth.
Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.