You could be forgiven for nearly choking on your cheese sandwich while scoffing at the revelation that many employees are failing to make time for a decent lunch break.
While everyone needs to refuel in the day, I’ll wager you’re cramming that sandwich in while continuing to toil at your desk. Taking phone calls, tackling work emails and preparing for your next Zoom meeting, while brushing crumbs off your keyboard. Sounds familiar?
On National Make Lunch Count Day (Tuesday April 13), there is never a better time to reflect on how each of us should be taking time out from a very hectic day, every day. To completely down tool, turn off phones, leave the workspace and enjoy a meaningful lunchbreak is crucial to stay alert and productive.
Covid-19’s legacy of remote working should mean it is easier to clock off for lunch; we have a kitchen in which to prepare something, and a living room to watch a sneaky episode of Homes Under the Hammer while eating it.
But the reality is we are working harder than ever with many of us feeling too overwhelmed by an ever-increasing workload to find time for a break. In America, FOLO (Fear of Lunching Out) is an actual thing, resulting in many workers eating lunch at their desks at least twice a week.
One reason for this is that remote workers feel the need to ‘prove’ they are working hard to the rest of their colleagues. This is known as digital presenteeism, where employees feel they have to make up for the fact they aren’t physically present in an office by always being digitally present.
A new study by totaljobs.com revealed a third of UK employees never leave their workplace after they arrive in the morning and more than half of them don’t take a full lunch break.
Out of 7,135 people surveyed, 68 per cent admitted they are too busy for a lunch break. But this won’t get you a promotion - it will actually make you less focused and as a result, your work may suffer.
Laura Willis is digital wellbeing and management expert and co-founder of Shine Offline, which works to improve employee focus and wellbeing.
She told Acre: "It’s easy to forget to take a proper lunch break. Remote workers do feel a sense of guilt that they are not physically present with their colleagues and so need to be digitally present and responsive at all times.
“We have been working with businesses since last March to support their people to understand the need for proper breaks to actually do their best work.
"We are finding that people are becoming more conscious of the importance of having screen free breaks during the day to minimise overwhelm and maximise their performance at work.
“Lockdown created an opportunity for people to reassess how they spend their working days and lots of employers are encouraging staff to take a proper lunch break, go outside for a walk and are discouraging meetings being booked into people's diaries during their lunch hour.”
To celebrate National Make Lunch Count Day, we absolutely insist that you take a lunch break and eat away from your desk. If you are struggling with this concept, feast your eyes on the below:
1.Think of your body as a car. Some of you may be picturing a sleek Porsche at this point (well done, lockdown has clearly treated you well, sadly I see a clapped-out banger) but every car needs refuelling to demonstrate exceptional performance.
2.What you refuel with is crucial. If you are a grazer, nuts, seeds and fresh fruit are better options than crisps and while a chocolate bar is tempting, it will only make you sluggish during that afternoon sugar slump.
3.If you genuinely don’t feel you have time to prepare a decent lunch, get savvy the night before. Make a bigger evening meal and eat the leftovers for lunch. This way you will give yourself extra time for a blast of fresh air.
4.Go for a walk. If you absolutely insist on eating lunch at your desk, ensure you step out of your workspace afterwards and go for a brisk stroll. A change of scenery can work wonders in unleashing creativity and will sharpen your brain for a successful afternoon.
5.Better still, get in some cold water. More people are turning to cold water swimming after hearing about its physical and mental health benefits. If you live near a beach or a lake, you’re guaranteed to feel livelier in the afternoon by taking the plunge. Failing that, just dunk your head in a basin of icy water for an invigorating experience.
6.Avoid lunchtime meetings and commitments. If talks of a meeting arise, make it clear you are free from 2pm, and have a break beforehand.
7.If you manage a team, lead by example. Announce you are taking a lunch break and encourage your employees to do the same. This will help avoid exhaustion and burn out.
Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Sitting at your desk and staring at a computer all day without a break will not do you any favours in the long run. And that afternoon Zoom meeting will only fill you with more fatigue. So, go and make plans for your lunch break and enjoy!