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The importance of lunch breaks at work

We’ve all been there. A stressful day, the work just keeps coming in, and you feel like you’re behind before you even start. Lunch break comes around – for some people, this is extra time to catch up on work, rather than a chance to take, well, a break!

According to a 2017 survey of 7,135 people by TotalJobs, a third of UK employees don’t leave their desks at all during their working day. On top of that, more than 50% don’t take a full lunch break, even though two thirds feel encouraged to take the break. Clearly, it isn’t an issue of not knowing they can or should take a lunch break. Rather, it is an issue of too much work, too little time. Lunch time is therefore viewed as an expendable luxury. 68% of those surveyed agreed with this notion, saying they skipped lunch to work on an unexpected task or to deal with an overbearing workload.

But, is working through lunch really the best way to tackle a hefty workload? Do you really get more work done in that time than you would if you took a break and returned back to the desk? United Carlton, suppliers of managed print solutions, has explored various studies and reports in order to bring you this article on the benefits to taking your lunch break.

Get non-work things done

As RealBusiness points out, your lunch break can be time to work on something…just, not work things. It’s a great time to catch up on tasks from your outside life, giving you more time in the evening (when you’re more tired) to unwind. You could use your lunchtime to make that phone call you’ve been putting off, or do a little online shopping on your smartphone. Run a few errands, sort out some home tasks. Whatever it is, you’ll save yourself some time later in the day after work.

A healthy refuel

If you’re at your desk all day, you’re probably prone to snacking. And those snacks are ones you can grab easily – we’re thinking chocolate, sweets, crisps, that sort of thing. After all, it’s difficult to get a healthy meal from a vending machine, but it’s the quickest thing to grab in the office.

BestHealthMag reported on the benefits of a healthy lunch, citing Dr. Andrew Pipe from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute:

“The kind of food people choose when they stay at their desks is not the healthiest. You can be more purposeful in your food choices when you get up and leave the office during lunch.”

Plus, on a more basic level, it’s an opportunity to refuel for the second half of the day. PeopleManagement.co.uk draws attention to the simple fact that skipping lunch means skipping out on nutrients for your brain and muscles, which will impact your performance. Without nutrients and good hydration, your mood, concentration, and performance will dip for the rest of the day.

But, with a nice healthy meal and a chance to get a drink, you’ll be in better condition to work better, and faster, for the rest of the day.

Fresh eyes

The physical act of leaving your desk and stretching out can work wonders on your productivity. Metro reported on the benefits of a proper break from work, stating that even if you’ve already eaten, it’s a good idea to step away from the office. You can grab some fresh air, maybe some sun if the weather is nice. You’ll feel more refreshed and calm upon returning, and it will allow you to look at your morning’s work with fresh eyes. The report points out that, if you continue working through your break, you’re less likely to notice mistakes in your work. Your brain needs a break, and without it, you’ll lose focus and the quality of your work will suffer. Take a break, and see your productivity come back with a renewed vigour. You will accomplish more in the long run.

Lunchtime working = working for free

If you’re of the mindset that working as long as possible displays better work ethic than producing quality work, you might be falling foul to presenteeism. Presenteeism is the act of being at work longer than is needed, or through sickness or injury, but is often deemed a reflection of insecurity about your job. And, the Metro says, this concept needs to be put to bed.

After all, the bottom line is that if you’re working through your lunch, you’re working for free. TotalJob’s put a figure to the amount of pay that would accumulate from a worker’s skipped lunches; working through your lunch adds up to £33,264 worth of free work over the course of your career.

So, to miss out on your lunch, you’re basically losing money and work quality. Give yourself the chance to recharge, and you’ll find your work flourishes for it. In fact, you’re more likely to finish your workload for the day after taking a moment to refuel than you would if you tried to plough through!

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