When was the last time you took a lunch break? As in an actual break, away from your desk?
Most of us have breaks included in our contracts and terms of conditions, yet research shows that around 70% of us eat lunch at our desks.
This is such a well-known issue that it has been described as 'FOLO - Fear of Lunching Out.'
April 13th each year is 'National Make Lunch Count' Day in the U.S.A. This was created by the chain T.G.I. Fridays to help encourage workers away from their desks and to take a break.
This isn't an issue that just exists in the U.S. In the U.K. it is estimated that:
A third of employees do not leave their workplace during the day,
Over half do not take the full amount of time that they are entitled to,
Nearly 70% say they are too busy to stop.
An increase in working from home does not appear to be helping this either.
Interestingly, from all the articles and research I have looked at*, it appears that this is more often by choice of the individual rather than the company or a manager requesting that people work through.
This raises the question of how much of this is the company culture, and the behaviour of others that influence this, as opposed to a conscious choice.
In the findings of the Deloitte Wellbeing at Work research* the top 3 key issues with work-related stress were:
The pressure of competing priorities and performance targets.
Workload resulting in longer hours and inability to switch off.- Including reluctance to take leave and time off. (leavism)
Lack of support.
In the 2017 report, 84% of people experienced poor mental health, with work being a significant contributing factor.
In the 2020 report, the research showed a significant increase in 'leavism'
'Presenteeism' - (Being at work but being less productive), alongside 'absenteeism' is a rising issue nationally costing 45 billion per annum.
Taking a proper meal break not only has a positive impact on the individual, it also has a knock-on impact on the workplace culture, 'presenteeism', 'absenteeism' and even 'leavism'
It is a small step that can be taken, which can have a significant impact on our productivity, energy and overall wellbeing.
The NHS defines 5 steps that you can take to improve your wellbeing.
Here are some simple ideas to improve your wellbeing during your lunch hour, based on the 5 pillars.
You might even be able to combine some of them.
1. Connect with other people
Phone a friend or family member and catch up
Go for a walk with a colleague
Sit and eat with someone else, avoid work chat
Arrange a catch-up date with someone and put it in the diary
2. Be physically active
Go for a walk
Have a stretch, or do some yoga or pilates
Get up and move around the office or building
Visit the gym or preferred exercise/activity
3. Learn new skills
Read a blog or article that helps you learn something new
Commit time to read a book that helps you develop your self or skills/knowledge
Listen to an audiobook or podcast
Take advantage of working from home by cooking/making something new
4. Give to others
Check-in with someone who is having a tough time
Call/message someone to show your appreciation
Complete a random act of kindness
Think of a colleague you could email to thank them for their contribution, cc their mgr (when back at the desk!)
5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Sit and enjoy your food without distraction
Take a walk and pay attention to your surroundings
Complete a mindfulness/mediation/relaxation exercise
Reflect on the day so far and recall 1-3 things that have gone well
These are just some suggestions. The main aim is to hit ctrl, alt, delete, and walk away from the computer and your desk.
Change your location
Change your physical state
Change your mental and emotional state
The benefits significantly outweigh the time you have stopped working.
Start with just eating away from the desk and then build up to maximising the use of your time to increase your wellbeing.
If you would like more help, support or guidance on changing this, or other habits and behaviours then check out the free resources or book in a clarity call and we can talk through how coaching can support you.
First published April 2021
Revised Sept 2022
*Articles read and referenced: