Only a third of UK workers say they take a proper lunch break, with many citing workload, stress levels and workplace culture as barriers. However, ensuring you have proper respite from work during the day can have numerous benefits for your physical and mental health.
Why take a lunch break?
Forget being “too busy” to take a lunch break. Studies show that taking a lunch break allows your mind to rest, recharge and refocus, which can directly improve your productivity for the rest of the day. Taking time out during the day – even if you choose to have multiple, short breaks – this gives your brain a chance to recuperate.
Not taking a lunch break can leave you feeling more tired and stressed, less focused and in a worse mood by the time the day ends. It can also reduce your ability to be creative! Even if you just take 15-20 minutes, this is a proven way to keep your levels of concentration and energy up during your day.
If you work at a computer, letting your eyes have a rest from the screen is important and, if you sit down for the majority of the day, getting up and walking around frequently can prevent your body becoming stiff. On the flip side, if you have a manual job, it’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day to let your body rest, relax and prevent injury or repetitive strain.
There’s plenty of research to support the productivity claims of taking a break.
Maximising your lunch break
How can you maximise your lunch break? And what are the benefits of doing so?
- Have a real break
Avoid eating at your desk or in your work area. Taking a step away from the office, workspace, showroom etc. will help you to relax and clear your mind as you won’t be trying to rest in a place you associate with work.
It’s also important to allow yourself some proper respite – try to limit or avoid checking work emails or organising ‘to do’ lists. If you continue to work in your lunch break then you won’t reap the benefits that a bit of respite can bring.
- Connect with colleagues
We all spend a lot of time with work colleagues, so connecting with them can help build a stronger team. Talking with colleagues over lunch can be a good way to let off steam, problem solve a task and unwind before tackling the afternoon.
Let’s remember that work can be a great place to meet friends and develop a social group, which is good for your social and mental health and wellbeing. Having a support network of people at work can be really helpful when going through any of life’s challenges.
- Have a hearty lunch
Eating three proper meals a day, or regular smaller meals, is crucial to keeping your energy and concentration levels up. Skipping meals can reduce your productivity throughout the day – as well as impacting on your metabolism.
Foods such as fish, seeds, nuts, blueberries and wholegrains are particularly good for keeping your brain healthy, while glucose levels can have an effect on productivity.
If you’re looking to go out for a healthy lunch somewhere close to the office, there’s an app for that! Healthy Out helps you find local restaurants and snack bars with healthy options.
- Mindful eating
There are many health benefits associated with being mindful (present) whilst eating. A study by Harvard found that people who ate whilst distracted actually ate more food, whereas ‘mindful eating’ has been linked to eating less.
Another side effect of distracted eating can be snacking later on in the day – particularly junk food. So it’s a good idea to eat away from your desk as it not only means you’ll be present whilst eating, are less likely to over-eat but it also helps aid digestion.
- Get some exercise
Even if you just take a walk around your building and get some fresh air, this will help you de-stress and your body relax. Alternatively, you could use your lunch break to do a proper work out – and the best news is you don’t have to be near a gym to do this. You could go for a run or find somewhere to do some exercises – Buzzfeed has put together some total body work outs that you don’t need equipment for.
Exercise has lots of benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood and increasing confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, another study showed that exercising can make you feel better about your body, even when you don’t see any physical changes.