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Benefits of a lunch break

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Ever eaten lunch on the run?  I’m willing to bet that most people reading this would admit to doing it from time to time.  I’d further wager that for many it is the norm.   Banking and finance giant ING recently commissioned research that took a snapshot of the lunchtime habits of workers in Australia.  The Ozzie work ethic is pretty representative of most of the western world, and some of the results were quite shocking. So what are the benefits of a lunch break exactly?

What Lunch Break?

The research found that 28% of people eat at their desk as a matter of course.  If you’ve ever done this you will know that it is virtually impossible to avoid scanning your emails or answering the phone.  Remaining at your desk works psychologically to keep you in the mindset of work.  Even those who do manage to read a book, or dabble in a bit of social media, are still in their work posture.  This makes it really hard for the brain to switch out of work-mode, and limits the amount of relaxation you derive from your “break”.

A staggering 33% of respondents in the study missed lunch entirely at least once every week, and a worrying 10% reported that working through their lunch break was normal.  For those who were actually taking a lunch break, 31% were doing so in or near to work, often in a communal environment, not really giving themselves space to forget about work for a while.  The average break was reported as just 15-30 minutes long.

With unemployment high, many workers are feeling under pressure to constantly perform to the highest of standards, simply to protect their jobs.  Many workers feel that they simply do not have enough time to complete all of their tasks within normal working hours, and so use the lunch break to catch up.

37% of people in the survey said they spent lunchtime catching up with phone calls.  Even those who do manage to step back from work itself seem to fill their time doing similar activities – 31% reported dong personal admin, and 24% said they indulged in social media.   Only 7% said they actually left their desk and went to the gym.  30% reported using their lunch hour for shopping, but much of this will probably have been done online.

In short, the study showed very clearly that most people are simply not giving themselves the time to physically take a break from work.

lunch break

Why a Proper Lunch Break is Important

Believe it or not, there are scientific reasons why taking a proper lunch break is important.  Here are three very good ones:

  1. When we are at work, we use a lot of emotional energy to control our emotions and behaviours.  We are expected to behave and interact in a certain way, but the human body is not a machine, and the energy we take to retain our self-control needs to be replenished.  A proper lunch break helps restore energy levels for round two in the afternoon.
  2. We all experience a degree of mental and physical stress at work.  This releases the hormone cortisol into our bodies which, in high levels over a period of time, can increase the risk of certain diseases and illnesses.
  3. Tired workers are less productive.  Fact.  By taking regular breaks where you engage in restful and enjoyable activities away from the work environment is very effective at limiting fatigue, and will help you to work better when you are at your desk.

How to get the Lunch Break you need

  • Make a lunch date with a colleague, partner, or friend.  You are more likely to stick to it to avoid letting someone down
  • Ban technology.  We are overrun with gadgets that beep, flash and vibrate to get our attention, and in the process prevent us from truly switching off
  • Diarise your break.  It is as important an any other task in your day, so get it treat it that way
  • Take a hike.  Well, a short walk anyway.  Fresh air has been proven to refresh the minds, and if you can find a green space in which to enjoy it then all the better
  • Start small.  If you never take a lunch break then begin by ring-fencing your midday downtime just once each week, gradually building up to more.  Try also to build in short 15 minute breaks for yourself in the day, where you move away from your desk, and get out in the fresh air for a quick stroll around the block

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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