I’m the first to admit that I work through lunch more often than I should. Usually so I can beat the traffic during my commute home.
Working through lunch doesn’t mean I skip lunch, however. Too many studies stress the importance of not skipping meals, and I don’t have time for mood swings, poor concentration, and increased stress.
For me, remembering to eat is not the problem.
Remembering to take a break is.
When I have felt overwhelmed by my workload at various times throughout my career, I have tried to power through in efforts to get things done; in turn, I found myself falling further behind and becoming even more overwhelmed.
Stepping away from my desk and taking a true lunch break at those moments would have forced me to reset, reevaluate, and reorganize my project and task lists, resulting in less stress and more productivity.
Now that I’m beginning to take regular lunch breaks, I’m noticing improvements in all areas.
Here are 5 reasons why it is important to take a lunch break (or any break) at work.
- Eating for a brain boost. I already mentioned studies on how eating lunch boosts mental and physical health, but blocking out a daily lunch break on your calendar will force you to step away from your desk and actually eat. Working lunches can also make you sick, and illness definitely doesn’t help when you’re trying to increase productivity.
- Preventing fatigue. Productive people take breaks, and even little breaks can work wonders. Microbreaks last 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Taking one 5-minute microbreak every hour can improve mental acuity by an average of 13 percent, can reduce fatigue by 50 percent, and can even eliminate pain in the forearms, wrists, and hands.
- Coming up with a (new) game plan. When you have a large project load and are feeling overwhelmed, disconnecting from work and getting out of the office to breathe for 20 to 30 minutes will reset your brain. When you return, you’ll have a fresh perspective, allowing you to reprioritize your tasks and projects based on urgency and importance. You could even bump a few of your favorite items to the top of the list to take a bit more of the edge off.
- Meditating for more. While taking a lunch break can be a great way to connect with coworkers and build a stronger team, lunching alone lets you dine without distraction. Turning off your phone during lunch and focusing solely on eating acts as a type of mindful meditation, which can decrease stress levels and blood pressure.
- Breaking for the weekend. By taking a regular lunch break, you’ll be more productive and experience less stress throughout the week. As a result, you’ll carry less of that workday stress home with you and experience more of the work-life harmony so many of us yearn for. You’ll be able to detach yourself from the workplace and truly enjoy your evenings and weekends without worrying about what will happen when you get to the office.
How often do you take a real lunch break? How does it maximize your workday productivity? Let us know in the comments!