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Encompass® Insurance Insights & Articles

Why You Need a Lunch Break and How to Take One

Did you take a lunch break today? If you feel like you can't step away from your desk, whether at home or in an office, you're not alone. Research shows that fewer and fewer Americans feel comfortable taking a break for lunch. In our "always-on" world, it's fast becoming the norm to work right through the lunch hour ━ answering emails, jumping into meetings or putting out the latest fire.

Two co-workers sitting down having lunch.

Staying inside in the same location all day, however, is detrimental to creative thinking and productivity. Doing so ultimately makes us less effective at our jobs, reports Harvard Business Review. When you work straight through lunch, you're no longer operating at peak productivity. You may squeeze in 20 more minutes of work, but your overall performance quality may diminish.

Even a short 15-minute break can help give our brains the time to reflect, process and reach that "a-ha!" moment. To get the most out of a lunch break, consider the following:

Head outside for fresh air and fresh ideas.

Even if you only have 10 minutes, heading outside for a quick break can be energizing and refreshing. You don't even need to eat lunch ━ you just need to move. The American Heart Association recommends incorporating movement into every workday and scheduling it on your calendar. Treat this time just as you would a business call or team meeting ━ it's an appointment you can't break or miss. Time spent outside in nature, even for a brief break, can have a positive effect, boosting creativity and productivity.

As an employee, it can feel risky stepping away for lunch if no one else is doing the same with co-workers or your team. To maximize the benefit of stepping away from your desk, try to put down the phone and avoid checking email.

Create a workplace culture that prioritizes taking a break.

If you are a manager, set a precedent by blocking 30 minutes on your schedule every day for a break and encouraging team members to do the same. There's a perception in corporate America that eating at our desks means we are more dedicated and effective. By prioritizing a quick break, you give your team permission to do the same.

Connect with co-workers across your company.

Whether its in person or virtually, chatting about the latest must-see TV episode or weekend plans may seem like small talk, but these casual conversations are important. Talking about life outside the office strengthens camaraderie and team bonds, which can have a productivity-boosting effect on group projects. These conversations also help employees feel more engaged and connected to their workplace, helping to increase employee retention rates.

Building relationships across departments creates opportunities for the innovation and idea exchange that drives business success.

Still on the fence about taking a lunch break? Try adding a short break into your schedule twice a week and see how this change affects your thinking, productivity and engagement.

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