The lunch hour seems to have disappeared in the modern office world. People rush from one meeting to the next and spend every spare minute trawling their in-boxes. Coffee or cigarette breaks are more common than the lunch break which is often spent wolfing down a quick meal at the desk. A study by KFC Corp found that 60% of workers in corporate America consider the lunch hour to be “biggest myth of office life”.
But the demise of the lunch break is having an adverse effect on the office workers of today. Employers should take note of the benefits that a break can provide in terms of productivity and employee happiness.
Here are 6 options for the lunch break that could benefit you and the company.
1. Give your brain a break. Concentrating hard on work tasks all the time makes it difficult for the brain to rest. In a resting state, or doing something different, the brain can often come up with the answers that are sought. If somewhere is available, take a nap. A study with NASA pilots showed that a 26 minute nap improved mental performance by 34%. A 45 minute nap boosted performance for up to 6 hours later.
2. Give your body a break from the computer. Office workers suffer from posture issues, eye strain and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Workplaces may encourage stretching and mini-breaks but these are often forgotten in the rush of trying to get everything done. Get out of the chair and go for a walk. Give your mouse hand a rest, change posture and stretch in the lunch break. The majority of offices are also air conditioned which dries the air and recycles fumes, spores and other people’s germs. Dehydration and inactivity can cause headaches. A walk in the fresh air and drinking more water can help combat these issues.
3. Get some sunlight. Sunlight improves mood and lifts happiness. People spend so much time under fluorescent lighting which has been linked in some studies to health problems and inability to concentrate. In winter, people may arrive and leave in the dark and get no natural light in the office. Make sure you get some sun in the daytime hours by going outside even just to walk around the block.
4. Get some exercise. Exercise has been proven to improve brain function and productivity. It reduces stress and improves blood flow to the brain and the muscles. Aerobic exercise in particular improves executive functions like problem solving, planning and attention which are critical to office jobs.
5. Eat a proper meal slowly. Focus on eating when you take your lunch break rather than multi-tasking on the computer. Take your time and make the most of it and you will feel less hungry in the afternoon. Eating the right food can also modulate mood and enable more effective concentration in the afternoon.
6. Social support reduces stress, improves job satisfaction and retention. Meet up with colleagues and friends to spend your lunch hour catching up and discussing issues. Get it all out of your system in one go instead of going round to people’s desks to have a chat at other times which may disrupt a productive day.
These options will improve productivity in the afternoon, as well as job satisfaction resulting in benefits for the company as well as for individuals. So put a recurring meeting in your diary every day for the lunch break and make a decision to improve your day. If you are a Manager, tell your employees to have a lunch break every day and see how the office improves.