Lunch Breaks Should Actually be a Break

Break for LunchA survey by Right Management in October 2012 found that no more than 19% of employees take an actual lunch break, a significant decrease from 35% in 2011. Additionally, 39% of respondents stay at their desk during lunch, and 28% rarely take a break at all. Although employees may think they are getting more work done by skipping lunch, they are generating future disadvantages for themselves. Here are reasons why you should encourage your employees to take a real break, and creative ideas for them to get the most out of it.

Why Take a Lunch Break?

Physical Health- Employees who work through their lunch are at risk for both physical and mental health related issues. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, sitting for extended periods of time, 6 hours or more, can cause an individual to be 18% more likely to suffer from heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Taking time during lunch to move and stretch realigns the body and reduces the chance of aches and pains while improving circulation and burning calories.

Mental Health- After several hours of work, stress builds up and employees may become overwhelmed, irritable and crash in the end. Taking a break in the middle of a stressful day helps employees to regain energy and positivity so that they can be more productive throughout the rest of the day.

Productivity- Working straight through the day can make the day feel longer, causing employees to become exhausted and unmotivated. In a CNN article titled, Why Taking Lunch Makes You a Better Employee, workplace psychologist Dr. Janey Scarborough Civitelli states:

“From a productivity standpoint, there are diminishing marginal returns when you ask your brain to exert constant effort through an eight-hour day”

Encouraging employees to get out during their break will have them coming back refreshed and motivated to complete their tasks for the remainder of the day.

Social Value- Getting out of the office during lunch is an opportunity for employees to network with co-workers and professionals or catch up with family and friends. Spending time with others during the break helps employees feel satisfied while strengthening relationships and achieving overall better health.

How to Break for Lunch

To avoid the risks associated with skipping lunch, and to increase employee productivity and morale, encourage them to schedule at least a half hour lunch break each day. Here are some ideas to help your employees obtain the most out of their break inspired by Inc.com and SparkPeople.

  1. Daydream- Sitting compresses the spine and ribs and tightens the neck and shoulders. Find a spot, whether it be a couch or your car, and lay down to relieve tension and realign the body and mind. Close your eyes, focus on your breath and daydream. Return to work feeling rested and rejuvenated.
  2. Make a date- Schedule lunch with a friend, family member, or professional. Meeting with a professional is a great opportunity to network, while spending time with loved ones will send you back to work feeling content and recharged.
  3. Play a game- Stock your break room with board games. Playing games will spark creativity while building relationships with co-workers and taking your mind off of work. If weather permits, get together with co-workers for a game of basketball or frisbee.
  4. Pamper- Schedule a hair appointment, massage, manicure or facial during your break for total relaxation and a self-esteem boost.
  5. Go home- If time permits, go home! Visit with your kids, spouse or pets to help you unwind so you can return to work with a clear head.
  6. Laugh- Laughing is a great way to relieve stress. Call a friend, watch a funny video, or read the comics during your break to get you giggling.
  7. Exercise- Instead of driving, walk or bike to your favorite nearby lunch spot. If you work near a gym, spend some time on the treadmill to regain energy while supporting a healthy lifestyle.
  8. Be creative-Everyone can be an artist. Take time during lunch to keep track of a journal, write a poem, story or song. If you are feeling crafty, draw a picture or start a scrap book. Accomplishing a creative goal will have you feeling inspired throughout the rest of the day.
  9. Plan ahead- Pack yourself a healthy, homemade lunch each day so that you have something to look forward to. Use it as an opportunity to explore new kinds of food, you never know what you might find that you like.
  10. Lunch and Learn- Organize speakers or workshops for employees to attend during their lunch. They will be able to take their mind off of work while gaining new knowledge and becoming a more well-rounded person.

For more suggestions, read 24 Rejuvenating Ways to Spend Your Lunch Break or 30 Ways to Make Your Lunch Break an Adventure!

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Image courtesy of: Flickr/SodanieChea