Lunch breaks are essential to de-stress and re-charge for the rest of the workday. This is because taking a break gives our brain the space it needs to return to a task with renewed energy and focus. Unfortunately, many people simply grab lunch at their desk, or take a break from the task at hand, only to scroll social media or email and miss the benefits of a real break.
In this article, you’ll find out how having the ultimate lunch break can supercharge your day, how best to design your break and how to make it a priority in your workday.
Why take a lunch break?
Sometimes it can feel like stopping to take a lunch break will add more stress to your already busy day. Surely you could power through and get more done instead? Research tells us otherwise. Skipping a proper lunch break could mean missing out on the most important hour of your day.
The benefits of a mindful lunch break are backed by research. Our energy reservoir burns down as the day wears on. Being able to properly disconnect from work at lunchtime helps combat this fatigue, while preventing burnout from a long-term accumulation of stress. Whether you’re office-based or working from home, lunch breaks are equally important. Counterintuitively, they’re even more important during stressful times.
Here are four key benefits to taking a regular lunch break.
1. Increased productivity
Studies show we have a limited capacity for concentrating over extended periods of time. No matter how engaged we are in a particular activity, our brains inevitably tire. We don’t always notice the symptoms, but we gradually become more vulnerable to distractions. If we truly step away from the computer, to allow our focus to relax, breaks can replenish our energy and fuel productivity. Taking breaks might sound counterintuitive when it comes to boosting productivity. However, the renewed energy and focus from a lunch break can help prevent a mid-afternoon slump.
2. Improved mental well-being
Everyone needs time to recharge. By taking a lunchtime walk where you physically step away from your desk, you’ll likely feel calmer. If you can spend some of your lunch break in nature, even better. It will help take your mind off your work, and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to dive back in.
3. A creativity boost
Taking a break can often give you a fresh perspective on challenging projects. So, don’t feel guilty about taking breaks, especially if you’re feeling stuck. It may actually be the best use of your time at that moment. Developing the habit of taking regular breaks can also help you sustain focus in both the short and long term.
4. Improved connection
A lunch break could be the perfect time to get chatting to a new co-worker or connect with a long-time colleague. Try and steer the conversation beyond a work context if you can. By building rapport and developing friends at work, you may also become happier and more engaged with your work on the whole.
What does the ultimate lunch break look like?
In his book When, Daniel Pink says “the two key ingredients for a powerful lunch break are autonomy and detachment.” Being able to choose how to utilise your lunch break and being fully detached from work has many benefits.
The ultimate productivity enhancing lunch break has these five themes:
- Nutritional food
- Natural light
- A break from screens and devices.
Eat for productivity. Use organic wholefoods to fuel your body. For most of us, eating lightly will support our afternoon energy. Some examples of productivity-boosting foods include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Oily fish
- Bananas and berries
- Dark chocolate
- Peppermint tea and water
What brain superfoods could you add to your daily diet?
Being outside in the natural light provides noticeable physical and mental benefits. Time in nature reduces stress, increases creativity, concentration, short-term memory, and productivity. Even a short 15-minute walk in your local park counts. Studies confirm that exposure to direct sunlight and natural elements increases job satisfaction and engagement, too.
Movement is medicine. Sitting all day leads to fatigue. Exercising feeds your brain with more oxygen, providing mental clarity and a jolt of energy. Walk with a friend or workmate if you’d like some company. Outside of your lunch break, try incorporating walking meetings whenever possible.
For more tips see: The Benefit of Walking Meetings
Connecting with a friend at lunch helps to create a break from work. Social connections are key to our long-term positivity and motivation. Can’t catch-up in person? Try scheduling a phone call with a friend. And why not walk as you talk?
A break from screens and devices
For your brain to feel like you’ve had a break from your work, keep away from screens. Catching up on your social media feed is not going to provide as much of a mental break as speaking with a friend on the phone or in person, or simply being outside.
Putting it all together
For the ultimate brain break, try this. Step away from your workspace, put on your walking shoes, head outdoors and either meet or call a friend or colleague for a social chat while you walk. Notice the sky, a tree or something else in nature. Before returning to your desk, honour your health with a light nutritious lunch, and enjoy mindfully eating outside.
Schedule your lunch break to suit your chronotype
We each have our own circadian natural rhythms. These rhythms dictate when we’re most productive, eat best and sleep best. By identifying our particular chronotype, we can fine tune our eating habits for maximum efficiency and to maintain these rhythms. This includes being consistent with our lunch time, where possible.
Your role as a manager when it comes to lunch breaks
While it’s important to have clear expectations around the quality of work being done, it pays to be flexible about when it happens. This includes encouraging all staff to pause for a daily lunch break, whether they’re working onsite or remotely. Here are four ways you can encourage your team to take breaks:
1. Take breaks yourself
If you can be a role model and visibly take regular lunch breaks, your staff will feel more encouraged to take breaks, too.
2. Talk about the benefits
Many people don’t understand the health and productivity benefits of regular breaks. Share information with your team, such as by email or through a guest presentation.
3. Create break rooms or areas
Providing social distancing requirements can be safely met, create at least one break room for your staff to retreat to, away from where desks are located. A comfortable space to sit and eat lunch will encourage more people to stop during the day.
4. Set a challenge
You could create a wellness challenge within your team, which includes encouraging them to take a daily lunch break.
It’s never too late to start implementing a regular lunch break. Try it for a week and jot down what you notice about your energy and productivity before and after your break. You might be surprised at how quickly you experience the benefits. Once you’re in the habit, you can work up to implementing a daily ultimate lunch break ritual incorporating each of the five themes above.
Over to you
- What would you need to do to create a daily lunch rhythm like this one?
- What time could you regularly schedule your break to suit your chronotype and schedule?
- What activities could you incorporate into your ultimate lunch break to refresh and recharge?
Thank you for reading and sharing this post. I hope it adds value to you and your team.
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