If you look down at your watch after a busy day only to realize you forgot lunch, you’re not alone. In fact, one of every two working Americans say they don’t have time for a lunch break. But there’s more to lunch than just eating.
Lunch is the perfect time to spend at least 30 minutes mentally getting away from work. Lia Willis, PhD, LCSW, manager of patient and family support services at University of Missouri Health Care's Missouri Psychiatric Center, shared why it’s important to spare this small portion of your day to refresh, restart and gain some perspective.
“Taking a lunch break can improve productivity and reduce stress in the workplace.” Willis said. “It also has been shown to increase job satisfaction as breaks help with attention span, focus and creativity.”
If you have time left over after your sandwich or salad, enjoy a little self-care. Willis suggests using this time to take a walk outside or in your building, play a game on your phone, nap, read a book, socialize with coworkers or even catch up with friends on social media.
Consider leaving your phone on your desk when you take a lunch and shutting down email for 30 minutes so you aren’t tempted to respond.
“Let your coworkers know when your lunch break is so they will respect that time and so they will see that you are practicing what you preach,” Willis said.
She suggests four simple steps for putting your plan into action:
- Set an alarm to go off every day to signal it is time for lunch.
- Make a plan for how you are going to spend your lunch break.
- Let your coworkers know you are on your lunch break.
- Take your lunch break!
If you don’t take lunch breaks regularly, set a goal of two lunch breaks per week and increase your goal as you see the benefits. You might be surprised to find your most productive days are the ones when you took a break in the middle.