Did you take a lunch break today? If the stats are anything to go by, then probably not. According to a recent UK survey conducted of 1000 workers, only 68 per cent of them ate lunch at the desks, opting to work through the day instead of taking a break. A different survey, compiled by BUPA, showed that two thirds of employees said they could not even take a 20 minute lunch break. While most did this in the belief that it made them more productive, in fact the opposite is true. Working for long chunks of time actually decreases productivity, while taking regular breaks increases your output, according to this study by the University of Illinois. Here’s five reasons why taking a proper lunch break could be the difference between getting to the end of your to-do list today, or not.
1. You’ll make better decisions
As I mentioned in a previous article about productivity, a study by Princeton University demonstrated the phenomenon of ‘decision fatigue’. This refers to how, after long periods of working without a break, your ability to make good decisions decreases, and you end up making overly simplistic choices, or procrastinating them altogether. So if decision making is part of your role, leave it until after your lunch break – you’ll most likely do a better job of it.
2. Solving problems will be a cinch
Think battling doggedly on to find a solution to that thorny problem is the way forward? It’s not – in fact, taking a break is the thing to do if you find yourself up against a brick wall. Research by the University of Sydney found that participants who were allowed a break in the middle of a task came up with more solutions to the problem at hand. Another fascinating study shows that, while you’re taking a break from work and doing something as mindless as daydreaming, your brain will actually be working away in the background, solving the issues that have been plaguing you all day. Escaping from your desk has never sounded so good.
3. It’ll give your eyes a break
For the vast majority of us, the working day involves eight or nine hours of solid screen time. And that’s not doing us any good at all. Spending more than two hours in a row staring at a screen can lead to computer vision syndrome, which makes your eyes red, strained and blurry. It can also give you headaches, and neck and shoulder pain. So give your eyes a rest, and allow them a break from staring at a screen in your lunch break.
4. You’ll actually eat less
Eating lunch al desko, distracted by all those problems to solve and decisions to make, often means you’ll have finished your meal without even tasting it. Taking a proper lunch break away from your desk enables you to really concentrate on what you’re eating, and take pleasure from it. Even better, a study last year by North Carolina State University showed that people who eat their meals away from screens and other distractions actually lost weight, as they didn’t overeat, and eventually chose healthier options.
5. You’ll be healthier and more creative
Of course, strenuous exercise lowers stress, boosts concentration and releases feel-good endorphins. And, if you can fit it into your lunch break, good for you. But even just taking a 20 minute walk outside could make all the difference to your working day. A study by Stanford University has proven there’s a positive link between walking and creative thinking, demonstrating that when people tackled mental tasks that required imagination, walking led to more creative thinking than sitting did. So next time you’re stuck on that problem, get outside for a 20 minute walk, and mull it over. It could be just what you need.