The Lunch Hour Payoff
How many of you skipped lunch last week, or will likely do it this week? Do you spend your lunch “hour” wolfing down leftovers or a sandwich at your desk, or maybe just skipping lunch to make sure that project that project you’re working on is perfect? If you are anything like me, you probably did.
About 40% of employees
eat some kind of lunch
“only from time to time”
or “seldom, if ever.” This is really bad.
Back in the “Dark Ages,” (2012) Right Management did a survey and discovered that only one in five workers actually took lunch breaks. The problem is that the break is good for your work, and your brain needs that break. It is bad for the workplace; it is bad for your productivity, and bad for your brain chemistry.
Let’s be honest; most folks do actually eat something in the middle of the day. The same survey said that about a third of workers eat some food at their desks. The challenge is that about 40% of employees eat some kind of lunch “only from time to time” or “seldom, if ever.” This is really bad, folks. Being in the mental health world, I work with people who suffer from exhaustion and what I call an “overactive primitive mind.” That condition, experienced by mentally healthy people across the country, is due primarily from not taking adequate time to rest the mind. When you see this going on, it is another warning sign indicating workers are under the relentless stress of modern life.
Here is the rub for management. The decline in people taking a lunch hour break is a sign of POOR MANAGEMENT. It is nothing less than that. Business organization policies and the pressure of office culture means leaders and workers alike experience exhaustion. It hurts the team’s productivity and in industrial situations, leads to dangerous mistakes.
Lunch Hour Pays
Companies have discovered, yet again, that workers need food if they are going to be energetic and sharp. Even companies like VendorSeek have determined that giving up lunch breaks actually diminishes productivity, causing workers to end up putting in more hours in the long run, not to mention what it does for their health and well-being. I joke sometimes that smokers are the healthiest people in the work place these days because they at least get outside. Some employers treat lunch like an interruption in the middle of the day, but here are two of the biggest reasons that lunch is so important to achieve a productive day.
Fuel in the Tank
You need energy. You need food. If you forget this basic rule of life, your body and brain will punish you with distractions. Not only will the pangs of an empty stomach and thoughts of food distract you, but you can experience drowsiness, fatigue, and have difficulty concentrating. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. It is crucial that you eat something healthy in the middle of the day. It also helps by getting you away from your desk for a few moments. Which brings me to my next reason.
Innovation Happens When You Change Your Environment.
Having lunch at your desk might seem like a great idea, but it really is counterproductive, particularly if you are in a creative field. Kimberly Elsbach, an expert in workplace psychology at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management says, “Creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to nature-like environments.” Ms Elsbach suggests that “staying inside, in the same physical place, is disadvantageous to being creative. It also gets in the way of ideas percolating and gestating providing for that ‘aha’ moment so familiar to many people. If you miss this alone, you are completely missing out on the Lunch Hour Promise.You are passing on the opportunity for breakthrough moments that can take your career or organization to the next level of creativity and productivity. What you get in return is exhaustion, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating…not much of a trade, huh.
Nothing works to change a culture more than leaders setting a new example. If, as the leader, you are not intentional about turning this around, I can guarantee you that nothing will change. Announce clearly that you expect people to take their lunch breaks away from their desks and set an example yourself. Your team will eventually follow your lead. If, on the other hand, your boss is having no part of the idea of lunch hours, here are some other ways to convince your boss you need time to dine, from psychologist and corporate consultant Kevin Fleming:
- “Make it an informal setting for a discussion of some important work topic best done ‘offsite.’ Bosses love this. Shows not that you want your lunch back, but that you are astute to office politics and have good boundaries.”
- “Make it a ‘leadership lunch.’ Tell your superiors it is an alignment lunch to get folks on the same page and to make sure they are making them richer faster.”
- “Convince them that the lunch break makes you more productive. Be a ‘Columbo‘ (the 1970s TV detective) and show them data that compare these two camps. Many times corporate America is used to hard data so speak in a language they will understand.”
- “If all else fails, make a low blood sugar scene of dramatic proportions.”
Having lunch at your desk
might seem like a great idea,
but it really is counterproductive.
So here’s my experiment for you, if you are the type to regularly skip your lunch break. For the rest of the week, get away from your desk. Start today and eat something with friends or coworkers or on a bench outside alone. Then go for a walk in a field or a park. Just take a few minutes each day. See how it feels for a week.
I submit to you that it will help you gain clarity about the first half of your day and give you much needed energy and insights to exploit the rest of your day for yourself and your team.
Question: How has skipping lunch affected your energy, creativity or productivity in the past? You can reach me at [email protected]
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Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.