What does your daily lunch time routine like? Are you a meal prepper, a sandwich packer or a going outer? Do you eat alone or go out as a group? Think about where you work. What are other people doing? No matter what you do for lunch, each of these options speaks volumes about the culture that has developed in the workplace surrounding “Lunch.” If not cultivated appropriately, the figure-it-out-for-yourself time for lunch might be doing you more harm than good. No matter what you eat, we would like to encourage thoughtful consideration about the culture of “breaks” and the design decisions in the workplace that influence the health of all employees. Here are some things that you can do during your break to benefit your overall health and have a positive effect on the rest of your day.
1. Actually take your lunch break. I know. I know. Blasphemy. You are just so busy, you don’t have time to take a break. Deadlines are coming quick, and those emails just won’t stop. But, did you know that not taking a break could cause you to be less productive? Breaks allow the mind to rest. This rest period helps to lock in what we learned/did and return to the job with a renewed ability to focus. Think about how your workplace culture is built around lunchtime and breaks. Does it encourage or discourage healthy breaks?
2. Have Company. Go out to lunch with someone or plan to eat in as a group. Eating alone has been shown to be bad for your digestion and with much (74%) of the U.S. workforce reporting to eat alone at their desk, we could all be feeling a little better if we had some company. Collaborative time not focused on work builds relationships between coworkers and strengthens the team. Consider generous break spaces with natural lighting, great views, and a variety of grouped seating elements to foster interactions and make a space people want to hang out in.
3. Move. Get your heart rate up. We are a sedentary society so taking time to create some movement throughout our day is essential. This could be going for a walk, stretching or using your break time to take a class (like our Yoga or Barre class). Movement reduces stress, releases “feel good” hormones and promotes lubrication of all your joints/muscles to help your feel better. Consider offering fitness options or facilities for employees to utilize on their breaks. Think about a walking path on site or locating your office in a walkable area to encourage movement for all employees.
4. Go Outside. Going outside has many benefits because of the different types of air and light. Benefits of bright outdoor light (Blue Light) is that it stimulates the brain to improve/balance circadian rhythms. See my previous blog Circadian lighting for more detailed information. This in turn helps to improve hormones balance, your internal schedule and sleep quality. Getting some fresh air is good too. We spend a lot of time indoors, and our air inside is often more polluted than outside. Provide outdoor amenities for employees to respite outdoors.
5. Disconnect. Leave your phone at your workstation. We are overstimulated and constantly receiving input from external sources. Having some time without influence from other sources is what makes this an actual break. Solitude is beneficial for the brain to process/reflect on what it has already done so you can return to your tasks more productive.
Your lunch break is your choice and your time. You should try to use it to improve yourself and your health. These items above have nothing to do with the food you actually eat for lunch (which is a topic for another day), but with just some minor tweaks to your routine could help improve your health in many other areas so you can be “full-filled” from lunch.