Recent research shows that the traditional one-hour lunch break no longer truly exists, and the average British worker takes just 34 minutes for lunch.
However, what is more worrying is that half of workers skip their lunch break altogether; and even if it is taken, many spend it sitting at their desk. It seems we now live in a culture in which lunch breaks have become a luxury rather than a necessity.
What are the benefits of taking a lunch break?
Perhaps the most important benefit of taking a lunch break is that it can improve both physical and emotional wellbeing. More specifically, lunch breaks with colleagues present opportunities for interaction and the development of relationships, whilst having lunch with a supervisor makes workers feel valued and supported.
Enhancements in well-being are not only beneficial for staff, but also for the company, as it improves overall performance.
Lunch breaks give employees the chance to recover both physically and mentally from the mornings’ work, meaning they can tackle the afternoon with increased vigour. Taking a lunch break also facilitates the development of new ideas, makes work seem less tedious and causes fewer errors.
Self-efficacy can be enhanced by taking a lunch break. If workers are confident in their abilities to efficiently complete tasks, then they are more likely to show higher levels of concentration, effort, and an enhanced ability to keep their emotions under control. This subsequently leads to higher levels of performance and completion rates.
Decrease in exhaustion
Taking a relaxing lunch break can increase the quantity and quality of work produced in the afternoon and reduce exhaustion at the end of the day. The effects of not taking a lunch break are far reaching; one study demonstrated that unsuccessful lunch time recovery was associated with high levels of exhaustion one year on, as repeatedly missing lunch breaks accumulated to high losses of energy.
What should you do during your lunch break?
Socialise with colleagues or friends
People should socialise with colleagues or friends during their lunch break. This not only allows workers to detach themselves from the stresses and strains of work, but also creates stronger relationships as it gives colleagues and friends a deeper understanding of each other.
However, spending the lunch break with a colleague rather than alone is only more beneficial when workers actively choose to spend time with this colleague. Therefore, it may be that spending time alone is a better option for some.
Leave the work environment behind
People should try and leave the office environment during their lunch break. Whilst sitting in the canteen with your colleagues is better than staying at your desk, this can initiate unhelpful work-related conversation. Instead, workers should try and take a 15 minute walk in the park, as research suggests that this leads to improved concentration and less fatigue in the afternoon.
Avoid using your phone too much
Excessive phone use can stop workers from relaxing during their lunch break, and can cause cognitive fatigue and loss of attention during the afternoon. Phones use can also be related to emotional exhaustion, which in turn leads to a decline in motivation.
The work culture in Britain is such that many employees feel as though they simply don’t have time for a lunch break. However, taking a lunch break can actually save time as it gives the brain a chance to recover, hence restoring concentration and motivation for the afternoon.
People should avoid excessive phone use and taking their lunch break at their desk and instead use it as an opportunity to get some fresh air or interact with others.