The Science of the Perfect Lunch Break

What time will you have lunch today? Thanks to the digital age, the lunch break is shrinking—according to a survey released this week, the average employee now spends just 29 minutes calming down demanding bosses.

In the Branston study, a quarter of workers reported that their lunch break was reduced compared to before the pandemic. Some have blamed the increased workload, but the trend has also been linked to working from home and the fear of being seen as a slacker.

“In insecure times, people want to show they are there,” says Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology at the University of Manchester. “But if we miss breaks, we burn out and make mistakes. Lunch break increases productivity.

So what is the best use of our precious free time?

Try to devote 45 minutes at the same time during your lunch break.

We are legally entitled to a break of at least 20 minutes per six-hour shift, and, says Cooper, “After three hours of work, you should not spend 10 minutes just eating a sandwich. You need at least 45 minutes to clear your mind.”

Dr. Sheri Jacobson, founder of Harley Therapy Clinics, says, “Getting in the habit is good – just like many successful people wear the same clothes, eating at the same time gives you less thought and therefore less added stress.”

Train to upgrade your brain

According to a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, employees who exercise during lunch can increase productivity by 15%.

“Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which promotes clearer thinking and lowers levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol built up throughout the morning,” explains Jacobson. “Even a brisk walk or run up and down stairs for five minutes can make a huge difference.”

Take a lunch break “out of the office”

According to the study, a third of workers check messages and respond to them during lunch, and 17% receive direct criticism or passive-aggressive comments from superiors for not reading them on time.

Jacobson says no one should feel compelled to answer. She suggests setting the “out of office” message for lunchtime only, and adds that “iPhone now has contact focus modes to let others know you’ve turned off your notifications.”

Don’t eat at your desk

“Finding and using a place exclusively for your lunch break can, after a certain period of repetition, create new circuits in your brain — a healthier habit of taking the right break,” says Jacobson.

While some enjoy lively dining, she says she benefits most from the tranquility of the outdoors, ideally in nature, which has been shown to evoke feelings of calm and well-being.

Jacobson adds that “being near water, like fountains—anything that connects us to our primal past—can also boost mood.”

Salad and protein can help you avoid an afternoon slump

Prepare lunch in advance. “When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to eat something unhealthy,” says Jacobson, adding that while 91-year-old mogul Warren Buffett loves hot dogs, most of us would be fine with a salad with a protein like fish or grains. . it is better.

A study by Brigham Young University found that employees with unhealthy diets are 66% more likely to experience a decline in productivity. “Unrefined carbs and saturated fats will lead to energy spikes followed by an afternoon slump,” says Jacobson.

Ban work chat

“Talking about work with colleagues in the cafeteria still works,” says Cooper. “If you have lunch together, talk about your family to take your mind off work. Reading a book, solving a puzzle, or eating a treat to reward yourself for your morning efforts will also help you work smarter afterwards.”

Mid-afternoon meditation can help boost concentration in the afternoon, while Jacobson says many successful people come to her clinic for 50-minute therapy sessions: “Lunch time meetings are very popular.”