As research suggests that an increasing number of us are cutting our lunch breaks short, here’s how to carve out some time for yourself in the middle of your working day…
Go on, admit it. How many times have you told yourself that you’re too busy to take a lunch break? We’re all guilty of eating al-desko while furiously dashing out emails, or taking a call with our manager while grabbing a sandwich from the supermarket, and recent research has demonstrated the true extent of the situation. According to a survey from workthere.com, the average UK worker takes just 34 minutes of their lunch break – if you’re entitled to a full hour, that means you’re missing out on 26 minutes of your own time a day. It may not sound like a great deal, but over the course of a year that equates to a whopping 12 full days of unpaid work you’re giving your employer.
But aside from the fact it means we’re all working more hours than we’re being paid for, cutting back on our lunch breaks could also be having a drastic impact on our productivity, health and emotional wellbeing. Time after time, studies have shown that taking a breather away from work can make us happier, less stressed and more creative – which is beneficial for both us, and our employers.
“It’s all too easy to skip your lunch hour, or feel guilty if you take a break from your screen or your desk,” says Anna Parker- Naples, an NLP business mentor and success coach (annaparkernaples.co.uk). “But it’s crucial to remember that in the long term this isn’t good for you, your work or your health. To do a great job, you need focus. Giving yourself downtime is the best way to sharpen your attention, and quickly.”
So, how can you reclaim your lunch break? We’ve asked Anna for her top tips on how to make sure you get some downtime…
Make your mornings productive
Before leaving work each night, make it a routine to write a list of the important tasks you want to achieve the next morning before lunchtime. This will give you focus and help your productivity and, once you’ve ticked them off, you’ll feel much happier about taking a break.
Plan something fun
Alongside all of the work-related tasks on this list, put something on there just for you to do at lunchtime. Keep a note of fun things you could do near work – nose around the shops, walk around a local park or visit an historic building. If it’s on the list or in your online calendar you are more likely to value its place in your day. And, you’re much more likely to stick to the plan if there is something appealing that brings an element of joy and escape.
Schedule in your lunch break
If you’re in the midst of a busy week it can be easy to schedule meetings and phone calls over the time you’d usually take a break, so why not book yourself out a slot in your diary every lunchtime, just as you would any other meeting? You could pop an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break, and you could also set yourself a timer on your phone too, to ensure you take the full allotted time and aren’t tempted to cut your lunch break short.
Say no to excessive workloads
When you’re under pressure it can be tempting to power through lunch and work the whole day. This is not productive in the long-term, nor is it conducive to quality output. Learn to respect your own time by setting boundaries. By saying ‘no’ when extra demands come your way, you’ll teach colleagues to respect you too.
What to do on your lunch break
Make your hour of downtime count with these health-boosting ideas
Read a book
Having a stressful morning at work? Research by the University of Sussex shows that reading is the best way to calm a frazzled mind and even just six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by a third, helping slow your heart rate and ease tension in your muscles.
Go for a walk
Nearly 40 percent of those polled in the Workthere survey say they rarely leave the office at lunch. Buck the trend and head out for a nice walk, or even a quick run. We’re all well versed in the benefits of exercise, but did you know that even just 15 minutes a day could help extend your life? A study by the European Society of Cardiology found just that – as those who exercised at a low level (or completed the equivalent of a 15-minute brisk walk a day) were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who didn’t exercise at all.
Check in with friends
A 2016 study by the University of North Carolina found that having good friends is just as important for your health as working out, and concluded that those with supportive social connections tended to live longer. Why not use your break as an excuse to give a friend a call or even meet them for a coffee?
Enjoy your food
The survey from Workthere.com found that office employees eat lunch at their desk four days a week, and the chances are, most of us eat in a distracted way. This not only diminishes any enjoyment you may get from your food, but it can also hinder any weight loss plans you may have. So, instead of snatching bites of your sandwich in-between typing out emails, step away from your desk, eat slowly and appreciate the flavours and textures of every mouthful.