Why taking a lunch break can make the day more productive

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Business LunchImagine it’s 11:45 a.m., your stomach is growling and you’ve got three big projects to make headway on at work before the day is over. It’s time to eat that sandwich at your desk and power through lunch, right? Think again.

Taking a lunch break can actually make your day more productive, giving your mind and body a much-needed pause from work and an opportunity to hit the refresh button. Marla R. Gottschalk, Ph.D., an industrial and organizational psychologist, says, “Lunch is a ‘retro’ tradition, which should definitely be reinstated. Many of us eat at our desks or skip it altogether — when our brain actually requires a bit of rest to process and recharge. As a result, we can miss the spontaneity of thought that erupts from great conversation or a change in our surroundings. Aim to get away from your desk for at least 20 minutes — even if it is just to take a walk or get a breath of fresh air.”

What other ways can a lunch break improve your workday? From increased productivity to a better mood and mental state to a less chaotic calendar, a daily lunch break can keep your sanity intact and your workload manageable.

Increased productivity
Though it may seem counter-intuitive to leave your desk in order to be more productive, that really may be the answer. Jeff Kear, CEO of Planning Pod, an online project management software company for advertising agencies, design firms and freelancers, says, “My very small software company (four employees) has instituted a practice of taking our staff out to lunch three times a week. We initially did this because we all had the bad habit of working through lunch every day, eating soggy sandwiches and power bars at our desks and slogging through the midday. However, once we instituted this benefit, we discovered:

  1. People were more productive in the afternoon and had more energy (myself definitely included).
  2. Our lunches actually became very creative brainstorming meetings because the different setting and the food allowed us to think differently about the challenges we were facing.

“In fact, after a few weeks we saw that the increased productivity more than offset cost of the lunches.”

A better mood and mental state
Even if you’re not facing a challenging workday, getting away from your desk can boost your mood and re-energize your body. Mikki Baloy Davis, a shaman and author of “Office Shamanism: Big-Time Energy Shifting For Your Workplace,” says, “Aside from the health benefits of maintaining your blood sugar and energy levels — and staving off major binges later — pausing for lunch helps you collect yourself. Taking a break helps you reconnect to your body and sense of groundedness, helps you take a breath. And then, when you go back to your desk or make that phone call, you’re coming from a place of satiety and presence rather than frazzled nerves. It can make a huge difference in your afternoon interactions and your creativity.”

A less chaotic calendar
Sometimes a workday can feel overwhelming due to the errands and responsibilities you have in addition to work. Using your lunch break productively can lighten your load, as well as your mood. Meieli Sawyer is a communications specialist at The Weinbach Group, an advertising, public relations and marketing communications agency in Miami. She says, “Why is taking a lunch break good for productivity? Depending on what you do on your lunch break:

  • You work with a clear head because you had a chance to go outside.
  • You feel more energetic because you worked out — but not long enough to be exhausted!
  • You work harder because you’ve gotten some of your personal errands off your plate.
  • You feel better because you just did something you enjoy. I learned that I love to go outside when it’s raining — I keep a trench here in the office — and stomp around for 30 minutes. The streets are empty, and it’s very calming.
  • You stay more positive throughout the day because you’re out of the morning rut and into a whole new groove. This is especially important for anyone working in a high-drama office.”

A lunch break can be a great way to break up the day and improve your productivity and mood. It’s also a natural part of the workday for many workers, and should be taken advantage of. The only question you should be left with is what to eat for lunch today.

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