Some organisations have developed a habit of allowing, even encouraging, staff to eat lunch at their desk.
Staff are rewarded for their strong work ethic and commitment to getting the job done by working through their lunch break.
In addition, staff who do choose to take a break are judged as lazy and/or selfish for leaving their colleagues to carry the load. Both these positions are unfair to the staff.
The most recent research on time management turns the emphasis from time to energy management. It appears our brains have difficulty concentrating relentlessly for hours at a time.
We need frequent breaks to refresh and recharge. In our current working model, the meal break is the longest and best opportunity for us to clear our heads.
Using the break to refuel with a light lunch is important. Equally important is getting some movement. This does not need to be a brutal five kilometre run around the neighbourhood – a brisk twenty minute walk will more than likely work just as well.
Use this time to get some fresh air, breathe deeply and allow your thoughts to incubate subconsciously on whatever they want.
There is no need for you to force detailed thinking on a particular topic.
Just walking and admiring the neighbourhood will be enough for your subconscious to work on its own. On your return to work, you are likely to be rejuvenated and able to examine your tasks with a fresh perspective.
Some would counter this idea by saying they get an extra block of time on their work if they keep working during their break time.
However, the evidence suggests that whilst you may work extra time, you will be working at a sub-optimal level for the rest of the day.
Extra time does not equal extra work or extra productivity. By taking a break, some nourishment and some movement, you increase the likelihood you will be able to perform at a higher level throughout the afternoon.
One more small step in the next 24 hours
Model the behaviour you would like your staff to exhibit by taking a break at lunch time. There will always be exceptional occasions when it won’t be possible, but if you consistently take a break and reinforce the health benefits of taking a short walk, then staff are much more likely to follow your lead.
Also, be careful not to allow your calendar and break to be hijacked by people scheduling meetings over the normal break time.
There is a gap at this time in your calendar for a reason – you need a break.