Why Taking Your Lunch Breaks Seriously Boosts Your Mental Health

Updated: Sep 30


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Do you skip your lunch or shovel your food down with your eyes glued to your Excel sheet? Well, you’re not alone. Studies show that 20% of employees neglect their lunch breaks because they worry their bosses may disregard them (1).


It turns out these fears are valid too - 22% of bosses do indeed perceive employees who regularly take lunch breaks as lazy (1).


Unfortunately, dismissing the importance of lunch breaks acts as a recipe for reduced productivity and compromised wellbeing. Today, let’s explore the benefits of lunch breaks and how organizations can encourage them to maximize workplace productivity and wellbeing.


Why should we encourage lunch breaks?


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A survey by Tork highlighted that 94% of people are happier when they take a break during the workday. The study also showed that 56% are likely to order takeout as a form of self-care when they’re working (2).


These statistics can be explained neuroscientifically too. Neuroscientist, Dr. Adam Gazzaley, and psychologist, Dr. Larry D. Rosen explain that “breaks reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function and keep us on-task for longer periods.”


Here are a couple of other benefits employees reap when taking regular breaks:


1. Enhanced creativity


It’s tough to crank out new solutions when we’ve been staring at the same thing for hours. Hence, taking breaks gives us the time to brew fresh perspectives and insights. Especially when we’ve got a challenging project at hand, stepping away for an hour or two gets those creative juices flowing.


2. Better wellbeing


Stress is incredibly common in workplaces around the globe, and it has detrimental effects on employees both mentally and physically. Therefore, stepping away from your desk for a healthy lunch or quick walk does wonders for mediating stress levels.


3. Boosts productivity


Our minds and bodies run on fuel we get from nutritious foods. While lunch breaks seem counterintuitive for our productivity, a healthy lunch is essential for energizing us to get through the long workday. It also helps prevent the mid-afternoon slump.


How to implement a culture that takes lunch breaks seriously


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1. Have designated break rooms


Having designated break rooms in the office gives employees a space to spend time away from their desks. If you’re a remote employee, try having meals in areas where you don’t do your work.


2. Have meals with your colleagues


Cornell University conducted a study that highlighted how teams that eat together produce better quality work than those that don’t (3). Researchers explained that enjoying meals together has a “long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue”, which proves that it helps boost work relationships among employees.


3. Encourage balanced meals


As we know, the foods you eat play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve memory and concentration at work. That’s why we need to prioritize nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Eating greasy or sugary foods will only lead you down a sluggish crash later in the afternoon.


4. Lead by example


The most effective way to cultivate a culture that respects breaks is to practice it yourself. As managers and supervisors, employees will feel less guilty when they know that their higher-ups take breaks too.

Summary


Building a culture that respects the importance of lunch breaks and downtime does wonders to employee wellness along with work performance. An organization with overworked employees will only hurt its bottom line in the long run. So before you skip lunch, remember that your brain uses 20% of your energy (4). You need to eat to refuel your brainpower and ultimately create a healthy, thriving culture at work.


And, no, coffee is not sufficient.


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Footnote

  1. ​​​​New Study Shows Correlation Between Employee Engagement And The Long-Lost Lunch Break

  2. Employees are still skipping lunch despite working from home, new Tork survey finds

  3. Why Co-Workers Should Eat Together - businessnewsdaily.com

  4. Why Does the Brain Need So Much Power?









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