Ah, lunch. That special sanctioned break that separates the morning part of your work day from the afternoon and signals that you’re halfway done. You might be tempted to work through it, especially if you’ve just started a new job and want to impress the boss, but unless you’re being paid by the hour or you really do have so much to do that the idea of taking a long break is outrageous, here are ten reasons why you shouldn’t:
See also: How to Make the Most of a Lunch Hour
1. The law of diminishing returns
Working longer may mean finishing faster, but that won’t do you any good if you’ve worked so hard for so long that the quality of your work has been affected. In extreme cases, you might find your relationships are affected as you choose work over your partner, or your supervisor might realize that you can’t manage your time and they can never use you for any unexpected tasks that come up.
Remember when you were revising for exams and you kept being reminded to take breaks? It wasn’t because you were young and less able to work for long periods; it was because that short break or quick sandwich re-energized you and kept you going. There was no point in being able to say, "I revised for 15 hours" if they were continuous and you can’t remember anything of what you "learned."
2. It gives you the chance to socialize
If you’re new to the area, you shouldn’t hide behind your familiar desk; you should go out with your new colleagues and learn what there is about both the area and the people. Even if the others don’t go anywhere, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out and learn your way around
Here’s a nice do’s and don’ts list on how to get started making new friends, such as:
Do: Initiate conversation. The worst they’ll do is run away, in which case they probably aren’t worth talking to in the first place.
Don’t: Sit on your phone. Getting out of the office isn’t much good if you’re glued to your emails anyway, and no one’s going to want to talk to - or continue talking to - someone who can’t maintain eye contact for more than five seconds at a time.
3. Just because you stop working doesn't mean your subconscious does
Writers often say that they come up with their best ideas in the shower, while they’re driving, or just generally any highly inconvenient time. That’s because they’re doing something that isn’t staring at a page, and they’re letting their subconscious work on the problem.
Why not use your lunch break to try this thought experiment out to help solve your problem: at the start of your break, write a letter to your subconscious. Be sure to give it a name - even people don’t like being addressed as "Sir or Madam" - and then write a nice long letter detailing the problem and what you need. Put it in your bag and ignore it; hopefully if you take a long enough break, the answer will come to you.
4. Your mother was right
Remember how she spent your childhood telling you to eat slower and actually enjoy your food? She may have been trying to reduce the likelihood of you choking, but she was also trying to teach you good habits for later on in life. A lunch scoffed down in five minutes at your desk won’t taste nearly as nice as it would if you took your time to eat it, and eating more slowly can also reduce stress, help you lose weight and means you won’t get hungry again as quickly, either!
5. It’s the chance for a workout
Chances are if you’re a human being, you’re on some kind of diet, and it’s unlikely it doesn’t require exercise as well as eating well; you can eat as many apples at your desk as you like, but your weight loss will be much more effective if you also go for an hour’s walk. What are you doing sitting at your desk during lunch complaining about your full time job not giving you the time to exercise? (Oh, and don’t forget to take the stairs on the way!)
Here are the top some great lunchtime workouts; you might not be prepared to go for a run or swim, but it should be easy enough for almost anyone to find a private space in the workplace, use the stairs, or just go outside for a walk.
6. A lunch break doesn't actually have to be a break
If you’re working because you’re the kind of person who hates the idea of doing nothing, why not get out and be a different kind of productive? Maybe there’s a bit of shopping you need to pick up, or a run to the post office you need to make. Getting those little errands done during your lunch break means you no longer have to do them during your free time and you avoid working overtime. Not only will you avoid the crowds and busy traffic when you get out of work, but you’ll get home a little earlier and be able to spend more time with your family or on your hobbies.
In more intense work environments it might be harder to get up and say "I’m off for lunch", but you’re entitled to some kind of break. You may not get a full hour, or you may choose not to take a full hour, but even ten minutes away from your desk is far better than sitting in one place for eight hours.
Let me know what you do during your lunch breaks in the comments!