When you take a lunch break do you remain sat at your desk eating a sandwich while you continue to work? A recent survey of 2000 workers showed that nearly half of them rarely left the office during their lunch hour but remained at their desks checking their emails while eating.
When I first started work, everyone was expected to take a proper lunch break. This often meant spending 15 minutes in the Staff Room eating my lunch and then going outside for some fresh air (usually retail therapy!) for the remaining 45 minutes. The result was, that I returned to the office relaxed and feeling refreshed. Now, everyone feels that they are expected to work continually and if they do take a break, they feel guilty, especially if their colleagues work through their lunch time.
I think that one of the reasons for this reluctance to step away from the desk is the advances in technology and the fact that we are constantly being bombarded with emails which we feel we need to respond to immediately in order to keep on top of our work.
However, taking time out is actually very good for you as it enables the brain to relax. If you are someone who enjoys walking or running, you will know how during physical activity, any problems you may have been struggling with all day suddenly resolve themselves. This is because when our brain is relaxed, it allows our minds to wander and unblock our thoughts. When I am writing a blog and struggling with the content, I will go out for a 30 minute walk and then return to the office with a clear head and (hopefully) inspiration.
Spending hour after hour at your desk without some time out is not working effectively. Research has shown that by taking a break, we can actually improve our performance. Our brains are not designed to concentrate on one thing for hours. If you have a mountain of work which you are struggling to deal with, take a break, even if it is only for 15 minutes and then return to your desk. You should feel refreshed and able to concentrate better. Sometimes it is better to take that lunch hour and then spend the rest of the afternoon completing your tasks – even if it means working a little longer into the evening. It is all about the quality of your time rather than the quantity.
If you work alone, it is only too easy to spend all day in front of the computer, especially if there is no interaction with another human being. In this case I would recommend a useful app called 30/30 which is like a virtual alarm clock. You can set it to remind you to take a break, then return to the task you were working on and then repeat the cycle: work/break, work/break … For further info. please see my previous blog.
So, next time you consider working through your lunch time, stop, take a break, grab a sandwich and go and sit outside (weather permitting). If it is too cold or wet to sit, just go for a brisk walk. I assure you that you will return to the office refreshed and able to work better for the rest of the day.
Also, do bear in mind that the break does not necessarily have to be at noon, you could choose to go late morning or mid-afternoon. The actual time is not important, it is the fact that you are stopping what you are doing and giving your brain a rest that matters.
If you find that you are spending too much time in the office you may like to consider delegating work to someone else so that you can take time out for a break. To find out about the office services I provide please email me firstname.lastname@example.org