Working through lunch might seem like a good way to show your dedication to your job, get ahead, and stay afloat amidst the flurry of deadlines and projects we’re all juggling. But this extra hour of work may not be helping you — in fact, it may be hurting you in the long run.
What’s The Real Problem Here?
For starters, working through your lunch break can actually cause you to lose money. The average American, who makes about $48,672 each year, leaves $6,084 on the table each year by skipping their hour-long daily lunch break, according to a new survey from Tork. If that’s too abstract a thought for you, then try thinking about it another way – you’re giving your employer more than $6,000 a year in free labor by working straight through the day.
Even in this era of work-from-home all the time, 91% of people report that they are working just as much, if not more, than before COVID, according to the survey. Despite this, most workers say they’re still not taking time out of the day for a lunch break: Nearly 40% of people say they only occasionally, rarely or never take breaks during the workday. And, surprise, surprise, women are more than twice as likely (67%) than men (33%) not to take a break. Considering that the gender wage gap means women earn just 81% of what men earn, this $6,000 seems even more significant.
“This has been a year of change and disruption, but one bad habit that has remained constant is the lack of a meaningful lunch break,” says Penni Tsavaris, brand communications manager at Essity personal care and health company. “For years, we’ve called employees to take back the lunch break because we know they are happier and more productive when they step away from work midday.”
Your lunch break is an unspoken part of your compensation as an employee. Beyond this, there are a number of reported emotional benefits. As the boundaries between home and work life have blurred over the past year, a lunch break to refuel and recharge is more important than ever.
You Earned It
According to the survey, both employees – and their bosses – have a lot to gain by taking a lunch break.
- 94% of employees feel happier when they can take a lunch break during the workday, and agree that taking a break gives them a chance to take a step back and get a fresh perspective.
- 91% of employees and 93% of bosses agree or strongly agree that taking a break is an important part of maintaining mental focus.
- 88% of employees and 91% of bosses say they return to work feeling refreshed and reenergized after taking a break.
- More than 9 in 10 employees say they are more likely to stay at a company where bosses encourage their employees to take a break.
Yet 22% of people said they feel guilty or judged when they take a lunch break. So, what can we do to change the narrative?
Taking A Stand For Your Breaks
If you’re ready to start taking your well-deserved lunch breaks you haven’t done so in a while or you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few tips.
- Be intentional and deliberate about your break – it’s okay to hit pause on your day.
- Set and respect boundaries – block off time on your calendar for a lunch break.
- Let your colleagues know you’re stepping away – you can fully recharge without worries because your peers know you’re out, and they won’t be looking for you.
- Pay it forward – encourage your colleagues to take a break and set a new workplace standard to feel happier and more productive in the long run.
Next Level Lunching
Your lunch doesn’t have to consist of a brown bag sandwich. Far from it. You can maximize your time with some self-care techniques or myriad other wellness initiatives you may have put off.
If you’re up for multitasking, consider adding these to your lunch hour for some extra enjoyment:
- Take a walk, meditate, or complete a quick yoga or stretching session.
- Catch up on your favorite podcast, read (or listen to!) a book, watch a TV show or a video you’ve saved
- Listen to new music or your favorite playlist
- Get outside. Enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and any nature you can fine
- Have lunch with a friend or call someone you’ve been meaning catch up with
Alison French, CEO and cofounder and healthcare automation platform Emerged says she worked through lunch for many years while trying to get ahead in business and life. Her therapist suggested she try meditation during lunch to help her cope, and she hasn’t looked back.
“I was finding myself to be the happiest I’ve been in years. I was more productive at work in the afternoon,” she says. “It was like this little bit of magic would happen every time I used my lunch break to meditate, and it made me the best version of myself.”
Even though you only have an hour, your options are endless. And even if you take the hour to simply eat your lunch and stare off into space, you’ll still reap the benefits of a good mid-day break. And you totally deserve it.
- The Most Essential Skills You’re Building While Working From Home
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- Yes, You Can Finally Escape Your Work From Home Productivity Slump. Here’s How.
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