Monday, 26 September 2016

Reclaim your lunch break

How many times have you been at your desk at work, looked up at the clock only to find that you're 20 minutes into your lunch break or that it's nearly 2.30pm and the last time you got up was to grab a sandwich before returning dutifully back to your desk. I can't say that this happens to me often - as soon as it hits 1.00pm I am up and out of my office building in a bid to walk around, eat, catch up with a book I'm reading or just generally take a break from the office. However, I notice that a lot of people around me at work rarely do this and opt for eating at their desk while continuing to work.

The guilt factor 

Eating at your desk can be very easy to do, and, before you know it, your lunch break turns into a fleeting thought or even a luxury you once had.  I often urge my current manager to take her full lunch break and get out of the office, to enjoy the one hour away and return to her desk feeling refreshed with a clear mind. I understand however, that demands don't stop and taking a full hour away from the desk can induce strange feelings of guilt or overbearing anxiety that you're going to seem unproductive. To think that you need to power on, that you have too much to do and that to take an hour out of your working day will, somehow, be unproductive is, in itself, very counter productive. There are many health benefits - both mental and physical - in taking a full one hour lunch break away from your desk that include clearer thinking, restoring energy levels or simply bonding with colleagues.  But if you are made to feel guilty about taking one hour out of the day to yourself, what does that say about society and the work culture? About the value employers place on the well-being of their employees? Remember that you are simply human - munching away at your desk on last nights left overs is not a fully qualified lunch break, it is more your body reminding you that you are not a robot and you do in fact need to eat, at the very least.

Your lunch break is sacred

Since leaving university and entering the professional working world, I have two burning questions -

1. Why are we so determined to possibly sabotage our health, productivity and overall well-being for just one extra hour of answering emails or typing away at a report?
2. Who are these God-awful people who schedule meetings during lunch time?

I've had days, of course, were I've inevitably had to eat at my desk due to changing deadlines and last minute requests that are time sensitive. It can sometimes be unavoidable. On those days I find myself hating everything and everyone - the hours seem to last longer while my concentration and energy levels are in dire need of some refuel. What I've come to realise is that your lunch break is indeed sacred. It's golden hour and a time to forget about your to do list. My argument for this is simple - out of the 35 - 40+ hours we work a week, what is the real harm in taking out 5 hours for ourselves.

The world will not implode

Go back to basics with some good, old fashioned bonding and ask a colleague if they want to get some lunch - you never know where conversation could take you and what relationships could blossom. Whatever the weather is like, go for a walk (or if you really can't face the cold outside, take a break in your office kitchen/canteen). Call your mum. Run some errands. Find a bench and read a book or magazine or newspaper or just people watch. If the work really can't wait, schedule a business lunch and talk strategies and upcoming projects while deciding if you want a side of sweet potato fries (who doesn't?) Or do absolutely nothing - we are always looking for ways to fill up every single minute of every single day that doing nothing but eat can be very calming.

Whatever it is that you choose to do, just make sure that it's away from your desk and computer screen.  

I understand that for many, taking a lunch break simply is not an option. Horrible bosses, very bad company culture or working in medical care can easily contribute to the lunch break being an elusive myth one can only imagine but never truly experience. But if you do work an office job and your boss is somewhat reasonable, taking a lunch break will not diminish your work ethic or put your bonus in jeopardy. Work hard, get in to work earlier if needs be, but use that one hour as it's meant to be used - as a well deserved break.

Even if the work is piling up, even if your to do list has just doubled, even if you think the world will implode* if you step away for one hour, take that one hour and reclaim it back in all its entirety.
Go on, take a break.

Do you regularly take your lunch break at work?

Currently loving:

*This probably won't happen. I hope.

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