No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (Hour)

By

Prema Jayabalan

02-08-2014

4 min read

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Skipping lunch takes its toll!

You are busy typing away on your laptop or in the midst of rushing from one meeting to another, when you realise that the clock has struck 1pm. It’s time for lunch. Technically, the time has come to step away from your workstation and take that much-needed one-hour break to refuel.

However, how many of us actually do? Most of us are guilty of devouring our lunches with one hand while the other is typing away. Then, there is the famous term tapau (takeaway), where lunchtime consists of rushing down to the nearest food stall to pack food and gobble it up at the office within minutes. There! Lunch is done and back to work!

Some take it to the next level by skipping lunch altogether because, ironically, they have “too much on their plate” and cannot afford to stop working, a notion they choose to believe.

The current highly-pressurised work environment forces one to sacrifice his/her lunch to complete tasks which were delayed due to, for example, meetings which ran longer than scheduled.

Employees feel that they are procrastinating if they go for lunch prior to finishing an assignment. Similarly, some employers who need to catch up with their staff feel that lunchtime is the best hour that suits both parties.

“When you demand constant effort from your brain throughout a full workday, you’ll experience diminishing productivity. What might start as an inability to come up with a workable solution to a minor problem could progress to a decreased enthusiasm for your job and even result in major burnout,” says workplace psychologist, Dr Janet Scarborough Civitelli.

In a nutshell, negligence in taking a short break in the middle of the day can bring adverse effects to one’s physical health and productivity, eventually leading to deterioration in one’s professional work.

“Taking time to disconnect from your work provides renewed energy and, as a result, makes the rest of the day go more smoothly,” says Anita Attridge, a career and executive coach with the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching organisation.

Michael “Dr Woody” Woodward, organisational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan says that just like professional athletes, everyone needs energy from calories for the mind to function at its best.

And we all need a little time to recharge, too.

A well-managed lunch break makes a significant impact to one’s productivity. Besides making you a more efficient employee, it also benefits your health and brings overall happiness to your being.

Now, isn’t that what we all want, i.e. to be happy all the time? Well, in getting a step closer to that dream, here are a few things you should practise during lunchtime:

1. Zone out

Now this does not mean slip into a coma, but rather relax and take a deep breath. You have been on the move, thus when the precious hour arrives, just sit back and relax before jumping to the next thing on your agenda.

Give yourself a good stretch and clear your mind. In a relaxed mode, you will be inspired to see things in a better perspective. Who knows, an answer or idea to a much-awaited question could spring up.

2. Stay away from desk

When the golden hour approaches, get up and move away from your workstation. Sitting too long at your desk has proven to be hazardous to the health. Hence, get up and step out of the building to get a breath of fresh air (it can work wonders to your body and mind!). Don’t think of coming anywhere near your desk till the end of that hour.

3. Eat

Spending the whole morning multitasking and jumping from one assignment to another would have sapped up all your energy. It’s time to replenish the nourishments and what you need is good, solid food.

Remember, it’s not called lunchtime without a reason, thus it has to be accompanied with edibles. Don’t try to starve yourself because by mid-evening, you may have a headache. This throws you off-guard and dampens your productivity for the day. Enjoy a healthy and delicious meal during lunch and come back to your desk re-energised.

4. Connect with new people

You may be working in an organisation with 500 to 1,000 employees. You may be so swamped with work that you do not know many people beyond your department, on a personal level.

Guess what, your lunch break is a good time to take a stroll to other departments and invite colleagues to have lunch. This enhances relationships which will benefit your career in terms of getting additional assistance when required.

Most importantly, make sure you don’t discuss anything pertaining to work during this time. Have casual conversations, perhaps on hobbies and travel instead.

5. Screen away

This means keeping all screens at bay, including your laptop, mobile phone and tablet. If possible, put your mobile phone on silent mode with your voicemail on for people to leave messages, if necessary. Even if you are having a sandwich at the park, your mind isn’t getting the break it deserves if you are constantly checking your emails and messages.

6. Call your family or friends

You may have family or friends who live in different cities whom you don’t get the chance to catch up with often. Well, use your lunchtime to call one or two of them just to say hi.

Laughing and chatting with your loved ones helps to reduce daily stresses and puts back your smile at the end of the conversation. Sometimes, conversations like these can inspire innovative ideas and thoughts which can benefit your career.

7. Take power naps

Sometimes, a half-an-hour shut eye is more than enough to revitalise yourself and give the additional boost to your brain. A short, power nap can result in waking up with creative and excellent ideas which the brain could not churn, prior to closing those eyes.

So, find a quiet spot in your office, put your feet up and take a stroll down slumber land for a quick energy boost.

In conclusion, lunch break is a much-needed time for each of us to unwind, relax and re-energise ourselves. Take the hour designated for you and make full use of it to ensure a fresh comeback.

Prema is a contributing editor of Leaderonomics.com who is trying to disconnect herself from work during lunchtime. To connect with her (outside the golden hour), write to prema.jayabalan@leaderonomics.com . Click here to read more articles like this. 
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