Reclaim Your Lunch Break

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reclaim your lunch break

How often do you take a lunch break, or even just half an hour away from your workspace? What about your team? Do you encourage proper breaks, or are they all eating at their desks as they plough through their workload?

According to research by Mastercard and MORI, only 17% of UK employees take a full lunch break. For those who do take a lunch break, the average is around 28 minutes. Just enough time to pop out to buy something to bring back to eat as you carry on working. We are eating at our desks or grabbing a bite to eat as we rush between appointments.

Although the idea of people spending more time working may sound like a good thing, the opposite is true. It’s affecting the health and wellbeing of our workforce as employees suffer from stress and burnout, muscular-skeletal problems due to bad posture, and poor digestion as we eat on-the-go. We are less able to think creatively, and although we may be present, our productivity drops as the day goes on.

Stopping for an hour to have lunch, especially combined with regular short breaks during the day, improves focus, increases productivity, and means you will easily make up for the time you spend on your break. Start now by making this an essential part of the day for you and your team. Here’s how to get the most from your breaks so that you and your team will be healthier and more productive.

Get outside. If you have the opportunity to eat lunch outside, or even just spend 10 minutes outside during your break, then make the most of it. Being outside has numerous health benefits and it’s a great way to disconnect from work for a while. If you can take a walk then even better, as exercise boosts your wellbeing and helps with mental focus. Why not make it social, have a picnic with colleagues.

Create space in your workplace. Encourage breaks by creating a relaxing space where people can get away from work, even if they don’t leave the building. You may not have room for a large dining area, but dedicating a space to breaks makes it more likely people will develop healthy breaktime habits.

Make it social. If you work with a team, arrange to have lunch together. It strengthens workplace relationships and as a leader it allows you to get to know the people on your team in a relaxed environment. If lunching with colleagues isn’t possible, then arrange to meet a friend for lunch. Social conversations enable you to park work for a while and think about something else, so you go back to your tasks with a fresh outlook.

Disconnect. Avoid the temptation to spend your whole lunch break scrolling through social media or checking personal emails. Unless you have a pressing need to check on something, try to disconnect during your break. A quick look at your Facebook timeline can easily turn into a lost lunchbreak. Read, walk, eat, socialise, meditate, or whatever helps you to relax, but leave the technology alone. If you really want to go online, restrict it to the last 10 minutes of your break before you go back to work.

Be intentional. To really reclaim your lunch break you need to value it. Don’t just let the time go to waste, be intentional about how you spend your breaks and make the most of your lunch hour. Make this a new habit for you and your team. You’ll all be more productive for the rest of the day, as well as being healthier and happier.

Start today, make the most of your lunch break, but also take small regular breaks throughout the day to recharge, refresh and maximise your creativity.

Ruth Randall is a Life and Leadership Coach, and Team Development Specialist. Ruth works with teams to help them to build trust, develop strong working relationships, manage stress, and increase productivity and job satisfaction. She also coaches individual clients who want to make changes in their lives, careers and relationships.