A survey commissioned by Whole Earth revealed that 61 per cent of British workers take 30 minutes or less for their lunch break, 41 per cent regularly stay desk-bound, and a further 7 per cent of those polled skip the lunch hour entirely.
This worrying study is one in a long list, revealing just how averse British work culture is towards breaks. However, complex work requires regular breaks.
While it’s tempting to skip, postpone, or cut short your lunch hour, especially when you’re “in the zone” or on a productivity roll, it’s important to disconnect for the sake of your own sanity and the quality of your work.
According to the Scientific American, our brain uses up to 20 per cent of the energy we consume each day, much more than any other organ. If you want to keep those synapses firing, you need a break. And nutrient dense food.
If you’re bound to your desk, however, a new multipurpose office desk comes in with a built-in microwave, dishwasher and fridge to streamline desk dining, and open up desk dining for more than the standard sandwich-to-go.
Come desk-dine with me
The DinnerDesk reportedly offers everything an office worker needs to create a full meal from storage, to cooking and even cleaning.
The desk, designed and on sale with UK furniture retailer, The Furniture Market, comes with a microwave, personal fridge and personal dishwasher all built-in as standard.
It also includes a pungent food extractor to make eating notorious meals like salted fish or spicy curry office-friendly.
According to the manufacturers, this is the answer to lunchtime productivity.
The DinnerDesk cuts down waiting times at the communal kitchen looking for food in the shared fridge or waiting for food in the microwave.
These desks also include a built-in kitchen roll dispenser and dishwasher, in addition to plate and cutlery storage.
According to Robert Walters, head of eCommerce at The Furniture Market, “It’s the nature of some industries that taking a lunch break is just not realistic every day, and that’s where the thinking for the DinnerDesk comes in.
“Rather than workers having no other option than to wolf down a bland sandwich or drab salad, they’ll now be able to enjoy meals from start to finish, cooking to cleaning to storage, without having to leave their desk – and more importantly that spreadsheet that Sylvia from accounts ‘simply cannot wait for.'”
While Walters may believe that the DinnerDesk is an investment into employee productivity, the issue is less about desk accoutrements and more about workplace culture.
Give your team options
Regardless of whether your employees actually take their lunch breaks, they shouldn’thave to eat at their desks.
Make sure there are areas in the office dedicated for lunch, whether it’s just a communal corner table or a room of its own near the kitchen.
If your office pantry can’t accommodate all of your employees, consider investing in a larger space or equipment.
Similarly, if you or others in your team expect everyone to work through lunch, take a step back and re-evaluate business priorities. Ask yourself: can this wait? Chances are, most things can.
If you’re on the receiving end of a lunchtime request from the hypothetical “Sylvia from accounts”in Walters’ example, saying “no” is the best course of action.
It can be hard to say no to difficult-to-meet requests, but it’s the best thing to do if you know it impedes your schedule or puts you out. Not only will the work be of a lower quality because you rushed it, you may end up resenting Sylvia from accounts for bullying you into skipping lunch.
According to psychologists, we tend to say yes to more things than we can handle because of “harshness bias,” assuming that people may judge us more negatively than they actually do.
The reality is that most people won’t think less of you if you say no. In fact, people tend to respect us more when we are able to set healthy limits.
One of the healthy limits you can set is to establish a regular lunch break, with at least 20 minutes away from your desk.
Here are three hacks to make sure you make full use of your lunch hour.
1. Plan your meals in advance
Prepare your mid-day meals either over the weekend, or the night before, depending on what it is, so it’s ready to grab and go in the morning.
2. Set an alarm
Seeing the lunch hour in your calendar is a great way to let the need for a break sink in.
Schedule a notification to pop up at lunchtime every day, and block out the whole hour in your calendar to make sure everyone at work is aware that is your time away from work.
3. Be a sun-seeker
During the long winter months when most people commute in the dark and miss out on the mid-day sun. Factoring in a 20 minute walk outdoors after eating could help you get in Vitamin D, which helps elevate mood and stave seasonal affective disorder.
A 20-minute walk can help break up all those continuous hours you spend seated on a chair.