Do you head out to eat with your colleagues for your lunch? Do you eat in a cafeteria in your building? Or do you wolf your lunch down in ten minutes at your desk in front of your computer screen?
In 2013, Bord Bia found that one in two of us in the workplace in Ireland work through our lunch break at least once a week, with 21% doing it two or three times every week. A 2015 study found that over 50% of Irish workers are eating lunch at their desks. Over half of office workers surveyed eat their lunches at their desks and less than one quarter eat their lunches at social seating somewhere within the office.
A poll of over 1000 North American employees showed that 81 per cent do not take what would have been considered a traditional lunch break, by stepping away from their desk in the middle of the day. Those who did not take a break felt their productivity plummet around 3pm.
Private healthcare company BUPA conducted research showing that in the UK just three in ten people take their allotted hour. This results in lost productivity that costs small businesses £50 million a day. Of those surveyed, half of them said their workload was too heavy to justify taking a break.
Taking a break and getting away from the desk for a few minutes is can boost your creativity, according to Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at UC-Davis who studies the psychology of the workplace.
“Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative,” she says. “It sort of exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections you can if your brain is more rested. If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.”
Getting out of your office chair and leaving the office altogether, instead of spending your lunch in the break room or cafeteria can also be mentally rejuvenating, Elsbach says. “People have creative thoughts and can work on problems in a less task-oriented environment,” according to Elsbach. “They actually make progress on problems because they’re not under the stress of having to come up with something.”
Although you may skip lunch so as not to sacrifice time, don’t sacrifice your mental stability.