View of young woman with glasses smiling and biting into a sandwich on her lunch break.
Image: © Yakobchuk Olena/

Why your lunch break is the most important part of the day

2 Sep 2019

If you’re thinking about skipping your lunch break today, take a look at these reasons and perhaps reconsider.

When your to-do list is looming large and you seem to be adding two new tasks for every one that you complete, it can be easy to think that skipping your lunch break is a good solution. After all, you think that by powering through and getting more work done, you’ll be able to make more progress, right?

Well, actually, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by opting not to take your lunch hour. Here are some of the reasons why your lunch break is, in many ways, the most important hour of your day.

It bolsters productivity

We’re a little blue in the face saying this in the Careers section, but working yourself to the bone won’t make you a better employee. In fact, it may make you less productive, more distracted and could even lead to burnout.

You may think that losing time to a break will make your situation worse in the short-term but, if anything, it’s the constant work that will slow you down. If you come back to work refreshed and with new ideas, as most do when they return from their lunch break, you’ll work more efficiently. Meanwhile, if your concentration is constantly dwindling, you’ll inevitably experience diminishing returns.

So go ahead and get away from the office – you may lose an hour of working time, but your work will be of better quality when you return. As they say: work smart, not hard.

Your brain needs fuel

As we’ve outlined a few times before in the Careers section, your brain is pretty greedy with your body’s energy. The energy it takes to run your brain makes up 20pc of your body’s resting metabolic rate. As the brain is so rich in nerve cells, it needs large amounts of glucose to keep it chugging along. Furthermore, the brain has no mechanism for storing this fuel itself, so needs a constant supply of glucose.

The level of glucose your brain consumes will also increase when it’s dealing with very mentally challenging work, and low glucose levels can result in cognitive impairment.

This is why eating regular meals is so essential to maintaining optimal concentration. Additionally, snacking on bits taken from the vending machine won’t cut it either – not all energy sources are created equal, and you need nutrient-dense food to make sure you’re able to think clearly and be productive.

It’s a great time to bond

Business leaders are constantly wracking their brains trying to figure out how to make it so that teams can work well together, yet the answer is staring them right in the face: allow your team time to bond and they’ll be better equipped to tackle challenges together.

Your lunch hour is a great time to get to know a new co-worker or shore up your relationship with a long-time one. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn a little more about what you all have in common and to talk about something not directly related to your professional lives.

In fact, some research shows that people who report having friends at work are also generally more satisfied in their role and more engaged with their work.

You need the fresh air

Sitting in your office all day, with its lack of windows and its stale air, is not exactly doing wonders for your productivity. In fact, given what we know about the nature of how humans concentrate, that’s probably hindering your work.

Looking at nature can have such a wonderfully positive effect on productivity that even looking at something green can make you better and more efficient at tasks. While you may just be tempted to change your screensaver to a picture of a tropical forest and be done with it, the fresh air of the outside is also highly beneficial.

Research led by the director of the Healthy Buildings programme at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has found that there is a direct relationship between the air a worker breathes and their ability to process information, make strategic decisions and respond to crises.

It can be difficult to control the ventilation in your office, but you can control whether or not you go for an invigorating walk during your lunch hour – weather permitting of course. Not only will the walk make you likely feel calmer and help take your mind off your work, but you’ll also come back totally refreshed.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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