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Revive your Lunch Break!

One of the artifacts of an increasingly glum workplace is the ‘desk lunch’. I believe it started in the early 90s. when companies stopped paying people for a day that included lunch. The people said, “well then screw you I won’t take a lunch!” Then when the day kept creeping past the traditional 8 hours, we never got our lunch back.

Then there’s the ‘working lunch’, an insane setup where you are expected to participate in a discussion with your mouth full of food and watch other people do the same. Ok right, I’ve arranged working lunches. But mostly to keep people in the room during a meeting. I found that in today’s overworked, distracted world if you send people off to get lunch they may never make it back.

What would your life be like if you worked an 8 hour day that included a guilt-free hour for lunch? Would your productivity increase or decrease? Would your job satisfaction change? How would you spend that lunch hour?

Productivity increases after a break. According to Dan Pink in his new book “When”, cites a 2016 study that showed people who regularly took lunch breaks managed stress better, were less tired and showed greater vigor. He goes on to state that autonomy and detachment are key ingredients for an effective lunch break. Employees must be able to choose how to spend their lunch and they must not be focused on work.

Try ‘Group Lunch’, instead of ‘Working Lunch’. In my example above where I feed people in a workshop to keep them from leaving, oftentimes we don’t discuss work while eating. I might even stretch this practice to provide a lunch and have the group vote on where to eat. Can we eat outside?

Banning the ‘Desk Lunch’. CBRE, a real estate services company, has banned the ‘desk lunch’, in response to research on productivity and health. People are encouraged to get to know each other better, go for a walk, and just get a change of scenery.

What would happen if you ate your lunch under a tree with a few coworkers? What if your boss walked by? I see two possible outcomes. First possibility: presuming your boss values outcomes, your boss thinks “There is my highly productive employee taking a nice lunch break.” The second possibility is your boss thinks, “How can they be relaxing when there’s work to be done!?” This presumes that either your performance is poor or your boss values appearances over results. Who wants to work like that? Plus, this boss is likely to fire you at any moment anyway because appearances are less predictable than results, so you better get out of there!

It’s Friday, go out to lunch today! Get some fresh air! Report back and let us know how it feels.

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