When working with individuals in the workplace I estimate that at least 50% of them describe their days in the office as working from their arrival in the morning until they leave for the day as being devoid of any mid-day or lunch break.
Whether they are 8 hour days or 11 hour days the reason given is that they are just too busy and at most, ‘grab’ a snack from the vending machine to help them get through their days with ‘energy’.
Further to this, when they analyze their productivity throughout the day, the morning is often identified as their most productive time. They are awake, alert and driven. This is great if one can fill their afternoons with less important and more routine tasks however this is not the way days or the related work flows.
When asked why they don’t allow themselves to take an ‘away from the office’ mid-day break I hear some of these responses:
- My company and especially my boss seems to discourage taking a break because we have so much to do and his job isto get the team to meet the expectations
- I believe taking time away will reflect poorly on my work ethic and that, in turn, will limit my opportunity for advancement
- I don’t need to recharge myself as I’m flying at maximum height and speed so why waste productive time?
- I am able to organize my day to do the things needing energy and concentration around times of the day when I feel I have this at the maximum level. No problem!
- I eat at my desk and get the nourishment needed. Thus, there is no value and only productive costs related to leaving for a break.
- No one in the company takes a lunch break away from their desk. It’s the culture and I need to fit into that.
There have been numerous studies that actually trash these excuses and reasons. Factually, this practice impacts the health, mindset and the productivity in a big way. Here are some of the known benefits that justify a reconsideration on the part of organizations and the individuals as to the values inherent in breaking and getting away from one’s duties and desks. Taking breaks …
- Increases productivity. The opportunity to recharge the brain while setting aside any issues that create pressure and stress enables one to return to the work with renewed energy. The accuracy and overall performance rises and carries us through the second half of the day with greater success.
- Reduces Stress. Stress results from overloading the mind with too much data and/or activity. The lunch break that is skipped or eaten at the desk allows both stress and fatigue to work its’ way in and that can carry with it a sense of hopelessness, negative behavior and irritability. Viewing a lunch break as a key way to stay the productive and positive course makes it a necessity rather than a luxury.
- Fends off job burnout. Without providing an intentional break on a consistent basis it can take a toll on one’senthusiasm for the work they do. In addition to impacting the organization’ bottom line, it also becomes a threat to the health and well-being of the person.
- Boosts creativity output. Staying glued to one’s desk stifles our ability to visualize new or different approaches to whatever we’re working to achieve. The lunch break out of the office clears our head and allows us to re-approach the work with a refreshed and clear mind.
- Increases a sense of job satisfaction. Taking lunch every day does a lot to avoid a building sense of resentmentthat often accompanies the person who feels stuck at their desk because they see themselves as just too busy to take that break. Instead, taking lunch away from the desk and/or office translates to the potential of being able to like and value the work and the opportunity we have to do it.
The Tork organization has done considerable research on workplace conditions to include the benefits of taking a break for lunch vs. the negative impact of not doing so. According to the survey:
- Nearly 20% of North American workers worry their bosses won’t think they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks, while 13% worry their co-workers will judge them.
- 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.
- 22% of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking.
As the survey points out, these statistics are really a shame because regular breaks create better employees. In fact,
according to the survey, nearly 90% of North American employees claim that taking a lunch breaks helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.
It’s a well-known fact that in many other countries there are businesses that actually close for 1-2 hours so that all employees leave the office and have a break. I’ve heard many scoff at this for it appears to them that those working just aren’t that connected, involved and committed to their work. At the same time I have to
wonder what the learning has been that has enabled this to become the way of the working world in such countries? Could it be that people are happier, more productive and more engaged in helping their organizations prosper? Perhaps it’s worthy of trying it. You just may like it on all fronts.