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Do lunch breaks increase productivity?

Nov 26, 2020
(updated: Feb 14, 2023)
Max 5 min read

Getting away from your workspace at lunchtime is often seen as a treat only enjoyed on the last Friday of the month, at Christmas and, if you're lucky, on your birthday.

We’re all guilty of desk dining, and we constantly ask ourselves questions like how can I take a break when I have that deadline? Or, isn't it a lunch break when I eat sushi at my desk swiping through social media and responding to emails?  

Although we may try to justify our lunch habits, research shows that taking lunch breaks actually boosts your productivity and helps to prevent that common afternoon slump. As counterintuitive as it sounds, stepping away from your computer can increase productivity and your overall performance.

In 2019, TSheets surveyed 15,000 employees found that 63% of U.S. respondents say they are more productive when they take a lunch break, while 58 percent say they return refreshed and perform better when they leave work during their lunch break.

In short: chaining yourself to your desk and chowing down your lunch is not a smart choice, for anyone.

Work smarter, not harder

So how does having a lunch break really increase your productivity? There’s a lot of research into the benefits of taking breaks to increase your performance. Here are a few examples:

A lunch break increases afternoon energy levels

We have all been through it. It's 3 p.m., your body is slowly digesting that pasta salad you ate at your desk. No amount of caffeine you consume is taking away that unproductive mid-afternoon slump. Taking a break from your desk to eat and getting a little natural light can make a real difference to how much work you get done in the afternoon.

Leaving the desk to eat lunch increases creativity 

Experiencing outside stimuli and physically walking down the street can boost our creativity and imagination. We return rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to take on our afternoon tasks. We also feel more organized and alert.

Taking a lunch break improves mental and physical health

Studies show that getting out and having lunch and a gentle walk can improve digestion, reduce tiredness and stress.

Your lunch hour can help you avoid chronic back pain 

Sitting at the desk for hours on end can lead to back pain. Getting up, moving around in the middle of the day for an hour, and stretching tired muscles can help to avoid back issues from sustained positions, thereby increasing long-term productivity and the company’s bottom line. 

Change your work culture

Many of us work from home, more so than ever with the new post Covid-19 norm. We are enjoying the productivity benefits of our home office: fewer interruptions, more focused time, and a quieter work environment, to name just a few. 

But these productivity benefits could be laid to waste as working from home often means people work more instead of less. Three in ten employees don’t take a lunch break when working from home according to research conducted by Freshly.

So for those of us working in the office and at home, the question is then: How can I incorporate lunch breaks into my work culture? Keep reading for our best tips.

1 .Encouragement

If you’re at the office, encourage each other to take lunch breaks, get out and recharge your batteries. Remember, a little goes a long way. When we see our colleagues stepping away from their desks we may feel more confident doing it too.

2. Give yourself some respite

Put the phone away and avoid checking emails or organizing your “to do” lists. Reap the rewards of a good break by taking a step away from your work area, office, showroom, etc. 

3. Eat well

It seems like a simple task but, at times, many of us skip lunch, which reduces productivity throughout the day, while also having an impact on our metabolism. Studies have shown that eating a small meal in the middle of the day keeps our concentration levels up. 

4. Make it social

Take this time to connect with colleagues or work partners by eating in one of the break rooms at your office. If you work from home, meet up with a neighbor. Use the time to unwind before addressing your afternoon work schedule.  

5. Get 30 minutes of exercise 

Going for a walk around the block can improve your mood. Not only that, exercise has a plethora of benefits in the workplace, from helping you learn faster and lowering stress to improving memory and concentration.

6. Create a creative space

Follow in the footsteps of Google and create a space for yourself to get creative! You can use it to grab a few minutes during the day to relax, meditate and to clear your thoughts. This alone will have a dramatic effect on your productivity.

Take a well-deserved break

At the end of the day, it all comes down to striking a better balance while working. Taking a proper break can help you feel more refreshed and motivated, better positioned to solve problems and undertake challenges, and calmer and more relaxed.

It’s so important to press pause, get up and venture away your workspace to eat. You can see that a little distraction and a little food is good for the brain.

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