It’s lunchtime on a weekday. Do you know where your coworkers are?
Chances are they’re still sitting at their desks—just like you’re sitting at yours—doing something similar to what you’re doing: pausing between bites to catch up on emails, hop on a call or surf the web.
It turns out that skipped lunch breaks and so-called working lunch breaks are a growing trend. A new survey from staffing company OfficeTeam found that 48% of employees spend less than 30 minutes on a lunch break. Of the employees who reported taking any sort of lunch break, 29% admitted they also spent that time working.
Other national surveys mirror these results. A 2012 Web survey conducted by human resources consulting firm Right Management found that 65% of workers eat at their desks or don’t take a break at all. A 2012 CareerBuilder survey found that 10% of workers reported getting lunch out of the vending machine at least once a week. And a 2010 Monster study discovered that 32% of workers took a lunch break “only if I’m not too busy.”
If you’re hunched over your keyboard ignoring the rumbling in your belly again, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Eight hours is a long time to work without a break! Habits such as working through lunch, eating at the desk and skipping lunch are bad for your physical and mental health. Here’s why:
- Working through lunch breaks can leave you feeling overwhelmed, reducing your motivation to work. Over time, burnout can settle in and your productivity can drop significantly.
- Working through your lunch break can make the day seem longer, making it harder to relax and keeping your stress levels high. A lunch break spent away from your desk—at a nearby restaurant or the office cafeteria—gives you a time to relax, socialize with co-workers and refocus your efforts in the afternoon.
- Skipping lunch or grazing on vending machine snacks can wreak havoc on your energy levels and your waistline. Your nutrition—particularly your glucose intake—will determine your productivity for the rest of the day.
So what’s an employee in today’s fast-paced work environment to do? If you can’t get away from the office, at least step away from the desk. Pack a healthy lunch and head to your office break room, where you’ll get a chance to interact with co-workers.
Not sure what makes up a healthy lunch these days? For starters, your meal should contain at least two of the following food groups:
- Lean protein
- Complex carbohydrates
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy
These foods groups are essential for building a healthy body. Oral health and overall health are closely related, so these food groups are good for your smile too!
If you’re stumped for ideas, try one of these three easy lunches—no culinary expertise required:
- Zesty Shrimp and Black Bean Salad — This delicious salad is packed with protein (shrimp, black beans), vegetables (bell peppers, cherry tomatoes) and healthy carbohydrates (whole wheat tortilla).
- Watermelon Gazpacho — With watermelon, tomatoes and feta cheese as a few of its superstar ingredients, this tasty soup covers three of the recommended dietary food groups so it’s sure to keep your mind sharp through the mid-day slump.
- Asian Chopped Kale Salad – This salad has serious protein power (edamame, avocado) and lots of veggies (kale, snow peas, carrots, bell pepper), plus it’s vegan and gluten-free.
For those times you absolutely can’t give up 30 minutes of your day, stash these smart snacks in your office drawer and eat them while you take a lap around the building:
- Whole grain crackers
- Peanut butter
- Crunchy veggies and hummus
- Apples and bananas