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The danger of the vanishing lunch break

The danger of the vanishing lunch break

'The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.' -- Sydney Harris

The Danger of the Vanishing Lunch Break

When noon comes around, it’s becoming more and more likely that you’ll be in front of your screen, typing away while perhaps trying to eat a sandwich between online meetings, emails and admin. I had hoped that working from home would mean more people would stop for lunch and maybe even be able to have lunch with their family. But sadly, for many, this seems not to be the case. Retrenchments, hefty workloads, pressure to do more with less and a culture in which hour-long breaks aren’t the norm, are all reasons why we are seeing a trend in skipping lunch.

According to a poll by Right Management, the talent and career management division of Manpower, less than half of employees leave their desk to take a lunch break each day. Of those polled, 20% usually eat at their desk, 20% only break for lunch “from time to time,” and 13% say they “seldom, if ever” take a lunch break. This poll happened pre-Covid. If I were to guess the results now, I would imagine that they are not faring any better. Is this really healthy? Does this increase our productivity? Of course not, so let’s take Key Steps this week and take back our lunch break and our sanity! Here’s some ways you can do this:

  1. Understand what is driving the insanity? Sure, people skipped lunch in more prosperous times. In the 1987 movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko said, “Lunch is for wimps.” But in today’s job market, where stress and pressure have been particularly exacerbated, people are just so stretched. Sometimes it’s simply cultural survival – “I can’t take lunch because it’s going to look bad”… “The more I do, hopefully the stronger position I will be in.” Often there is the fear that my boss will be looking for me and, if I am not available when working from home, then I’ll be seen as slacking-off and taking advantage. We need to break out of this pattern of thinking and…
  2. Realise the truth. The truth is that working through lunch is known to be counter-productive. Lunch breaks are good for your physical and mental health – and even your company’s bottom line. Being tied to your desk the entire day can lead to higher levels of stress, and as a result, poorer health and decreased productivity. During times like these, stress and fatigue is at an all-time high so we cannot afford to exacerbate the problem. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So, let’s…
  3. Make taking some midday downtime a priority. Whether it involves eating lunch, exercising or reading a book, they key is to take time to recharge and refuel your mind, body and spirit. It is important to step away from your computer and give yourself a break. Research tells us that you’ll be more – NOT less – productive in the afternoon. This logical and healthy habit should extend beyond just the lunch break to ensure that you…
  4. Work at a sustainable pace. The feverish pace we have reached – in our efforts to quickly adapt to one of the biggest disruptive forces that the world has ever seen – is not one that can be sustained. I am seriously worried about the health of many of my clients, colleagues and friends. The current pace many are operating at is a recipe for a heart attack, stroke or other serious illness (que an autoimmune diseases). Prolonged and unmanaged stress is a killer. Yes, if we belief stress is good for us, it can definitely minimise the impact and help our bodies to cope better but we cannot be effective and healthy when we are under severe stress for extended periods of time. Shift gears (because we are going to be living with Covid for at least the next 12-months) and find a sustainable pace. Do it now. You are running a marathon, not a quick sprint. If the system around you isn’t being as wise…
  5. Set health boundaries. It is important to push back, respectfully and appropriately, if you are being expected to work excessively long hours or most weekends. This takes us back to point 4 – it is not sustainable and it is not good for your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is also NOT good for your company’s bottom-line, no matter what people might try and lead you to believe. We need time to unplug. The same way your computer needs to be rebooted, defragged, etc. so too do we need it! I am not suggesting that we become rigid and refuse to work any overtime (that isn’t healthy either) but I am suggesting that we do not let it become the norm. Do not compromise your health and happiness. Make yourself, your health and your well-being a priority. This means that you can bring the best version of you to work and be optimally effective and productive. It is up to you to take Key Steps to…

“be the difference that makes the difference

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and organisational development and transformation. She is a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner. She is also one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – it’s the Oscar of the speaking business.

Sharon’s PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that has been published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of Henley Business School and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. Sharon has become known for her practical approach, useful tools and genuinely caring manner. She is really looking forward to working with you and taking Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’


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