We all have deadlines and a thousand things to do at work, so how are we supposed to enjoy a good lunch break? Research shows more and more people are opting out of their lunch breaks, but experts say your brain really needs it.
“I used to work through my lunch and someone who had worked at the place longer said, 'Don't be an idiot!'” Desiree Burcum, a worker on her lunch break, said.
A recent study shows 62 percent of American workers prefer to take lunch at their desks, even though research shows that’s highly unproductive.
“All of us have some sort of a cycle where we kind of ramp up, we're at our maximum productivity, our clearest thinking, but then there's sort of a tapering off,” Anita Woolley, a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon University, said.
She said breaking off from a task allows our brains to rejuvenate
“When you're working on a problem and literally changing context, thinking about something else can enhance their ability to connect to new ideas when they come back to the problem," Woolley said.
Surveys find people skip lunch because they feel guilty or obligated to keep working. But research shows a lunch break is good for performance, stress levels and job satisfaction.
“When they don't take a break and they just kind of dig, dig, dig into a problem and don't solve it or spend a long time doing it, it can be really dissatisfying, and it can contribute to burnout," Woolley said.
There are many ways to make the most of your lunch break: spend sometime outside or socialize with your colleagues. But that’s if you’re actually allowed to take a break in the first place.
"The leaders themselves need to take a lunch break, right? And so they very prominently can put a block on their calendar and not schedule meetings, not accept meetings," Woolley said.
Americans are notoriously overworked, and take as many as ten fewer vacation days than workers in other countries. And shorter lunch breaks, too.
“I’ve been teaching for ten years and I'm finally like, this isn't normal. I want lunch,” Sloan Doyle, a teacher, said.
While it feels like that lunch break might set you back, look at it this way: that break will help you brain work better when you return, making up for that lost time.