You work hard. You put in your time, do what you’re supposed to do, and do it to the best of your ability. You, my friend, are an exemplary employee.
Even if that’s not entirely true 100% of the time, you still deserve a break. Remember when the accepted advice was to work through your lunch break if you wanted to get ahead? That’s no longer the case. We know now that attention, focus, and willpower are finite resources. You can’t continuously draw from the well and expect it to never dry out. So even if you’re not the perfect employee - especially if you’re not the perfect employee - you’d do well to take an actual break during break times. You’ll feel reenergized, refocused, and ready to tackle the rest of the day.
You should be taking short, frequent breaks throughout the day. For best results, some research suggests a 15-minute break for every 90 minutes of work. The Pomodoro technique advises taking a 5-minute breather for every 25 minutes of concentration.
Think of your lunch break (does anyone still get an actual lunch hour anymore?) as a mega-refresher. Seize it. Take advantage of it. Do something other than mindlessly munching on your PB & J. Read a good book. Socialize with your colleagues.
Or visit some of these websites on your lunch break. Cyberspace is chock-full of great places to check out...provided your employer doesn’t have some draconian blocks and filters in place. And just FYI...all of these websites are SFW(safe for work), so there shouldn’t be any need to use the Incognito mode in your browser.
1. Sites to Learn Something New
Whether you have 30, 45, or a full 60 minutes for lunch, you can use the time to learn something new. Even 10-15 minutes, if done daily, adds up to serious time over a week, month, or year. You could start exploring coding at Code or Code Academy (how useful would that little skill be down the road?!).
Both Lifehacker and Mental Floss provide plenty of “I didn’t know that” and “wow, who knew?” type articles on everything you can imagine. Pop culture, health, productivity, cleaning, tech, food, and small talk. And - quite literally - everything else.
For something perhaps a little more cerebral, drop by Brain Pickings. Beautifully written and thought-provoking, the site is run by Maria Popova, a “reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large.” She writes about some very big and esoteric ideas, summarizing some of the greatest thinkers and literary works from history in her elegant and clear prose.
Finally, why not sign up at Highbrow. They offer various “courses” (52 at last count) on a wide range of topics. You can browse and register at the site, and then you’ll receive 5-minute lessons in your inbox each morning. You can peruse the email at lunchtime.
It’s like being back at school...but with fewer bullies.
2. Sites to Zone Out for a Bit
Learning something new and bettering yourself as a human being is all well and good, and it is something we should all endeavor to do. But sometimes, you just want to veg. Maybe you had a particularly harrowing morning. Maybe you finally presented to that big client, the one that’s been keeping you up at night. No matter the reason, there’s no shame in occasionally using your lunch break to simply zone out. No thinking allowed. If that’s the case, there’s no better option than watching some Family Guy, or Modern Family, or The Office on Netflix or Hulu. Pick your poison, plug in your headphones, and just enjoy. While both services have a paid subscription, you can watch ad-supported free episodes on Hulu.
3. Sites to Have a Laugh
If watching some television at work is not your thing (or not allowed), there are alternatives. We all need to laugh. It really is the best medicine. A few hearty, sincere chuckles, giggles, or guffaws can work wonders for your mental health. A quick search for “funny sites” will return thousands upon thousands of results. A few good (and mainly SFW) options include:
- Passive Aggressive Notes - a collection of user submitted notes left around the office, or dorm room, or family home, or wherever. They’re funny because we can all relate to them.
- Awkward Family Photos - the title says it all. Some of them are downright cringe-worthy.
- People of Walmart - another one that tells it all in its name. Walmart seems to be the gathering ground of the strangest human beings walking the planet.
- Funny or Die - founded by comedy legend Will Ferrell (yes, I said legend, and I meant it), this website provides short videos and clips submitted by both celebrities and John (and Jane) Q. Public. Watch, laugh (or not), and vote.
- Overheard in the Office - no surprises here, this site is a collection of odd, bizarre, crazy, and hilarious conversations overheard in the office.
4. Sites to Catch Up on the News
You could use your break to read the actual news, but it’s usually so depressing. Natural disasters, financial crises, death, murder, deception, lies, and malice. Not exactly a picker-upper, eh? Instead, turn to Things Are Good, a site that promises to deliver only happy, positive, and uplifting news from around the world. Or you could visit The Onion, “America’s Finest News Source”. It satirizes the news, so you may still catch a glimpse of the bad things going on in the world, but in a tongue-in-cheek, parody of itself. Much easier to digest.
5. Sites to Take a Virtual Trip
You might have only two weeks per year for actual travel, but the web allows you to visit anywhere in the world from the comfort (or lack thereof) of your office chair. Webcams exist for almost every place and event you can imagine. EarthCam is a great portal with many options. Stop by Times Square, NYC, or Bourbon Street, New Orleans, and see what the locals are up to. Or maybe the Underwater Cam, Maldives is more your style. Or how about The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai? And of course, we can’t forget Niagara Falls. Wherever you want to go, just google “[the name] webcam”. You’ll “be there” before you can blink.
6. Sites for the Mind
Your brain needs a break as much - and likely more - as your body. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so take care of your mind. Your lunch break is the perfect time to read up on “simple wisdom for complex lives” at Tiny Buddha. It offers advice and guides on healthy habits, health and fun, letting go, love and relationships, meaning and passion, mindfulness and peace, and work fulfillment. Or you could flex your brain muscles at Lumosity. Or take a forced 2-minute pause over at Do Nothing for 2 Minutes (a peaceful beach image with accompanying sound of waves and seagulls...move the cursor or touch the keyboard, and the 2 minute countdown starts again). Finally, Calm provides a number of live wallpapers (complete with ambient noise) and guided meditations ranging from two to 20 minutes in length. Refresh your mind, and your body will follow.
7. Sites to Have Some Fun
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with simply using your lunch break to have some fun, whatever that means for you. Try your hand at some classic (i.e. better) video games over at Classic Games Arcade or Play Retro Games. They have Mario, Street Fighter, Doom, Mortal Kombat, Q*bert, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic, Pac-man, and many others. Or perhaps you’re more of a LEGO person. Well, swing on over to Build With Chrome, and create to your heart’s content with an unlimited supply of digital LEGO blocks (and come on...who doesn’t love LEGO?!). You can even share your masterpieces with others.
The web has a lot to offer. Some of it is mindless, some of it is mindful, and some of it will expand your mind. Pick something - anything - and take a break. You know what they say: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And that can lead to a murderous rampage, ending with you freezing to death in a hedge maze, in the middle of winter, in the mountains of Colorado. Don’t let yourself become yet another employee who ends up like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. Enjoy your lunch break...if not for you, then for your colleagues and all the lives it will save. But do make sure to follow whatever internet restrictions are in place by your employer. The sites listed here are all safe-for-work, but individual companies may have rules against certain online activities during the day. And if that’s the case, you could be in violation by visiting them. When in doubt, check (HR, supervisor, manager, co-worker). What sites do you frequent at lunch? Leave your comments below...