The most important elements to a healthy life are: a healthy diet, regular exercise- and avoiding sitting for too long, and a good work-life balance.
In theory, we all know this. Which is why, if we were asked to work 6 days a week for the same pay, most of us would say no. Categorically no.
Why is it then, that over 50% of people do it anyway? No, they don’t go in on a Saturday (well, maybe they do). It isn’t even about checking your work phone outside working hours (though again, that is a problem). It is about the extra hour we work every day.
Because about half the working population doesn’t take their lunch-break. And this is not (just) about food, it is about so much more.
It doesn’t feel like it in most office environments, but you are entitled to a lunch break. Yes, that hour off is a right you have. Your lunchbreak does not legally have to be an hour, but you have the “right to an uninterrupted break”.
Depending on your contract, this may be paid or unpaid, but if you work from 8.30am to 5pm (or 9am to 5.30pm) and are paid to do 37.5 hours a week, that hour is unpaid. So take it for yourself!
You can read your full rights, including rest time between shifts, on the government website here. (Hint: Many shift patterns don’t allow enough time between late and day shifts)
Why your lunch break is important
You’ll end up overworked and less productive
The likelihood that British companies will soon trial the 4-day work week is unlikely. Even though it is said to be just as effective as working 5 days. Where you’re more focused on the days you are in, aren’t distracted by personal thoughts and energised because you have enough time to rest between shifts. So while we continue hoping for that 4-day week, start by doing what you can and reclaim your lunch break. You will be just as productive because you’ll have had time to take a proper break, refuel and to check your personal messages so as not to get distracted in the afternoon.
It may be frowned upon, but it shouldn’t be. And if you are just as efficient, your boss won’t be able to complain. (Even if he did, you know the law is on your side).
We agreed earlier on how important a healthy diet is.
Now, do you think the lunch (possibly a panini from the sandwich truck or even the vending machine) you pick at whilst answering emails constitutes a healthy meal which will keep you functioning for the next four hours? Probably not.
Taking your lunch break means you can go out to find better food, or prepare something and bring a lunch box which actually requires your full attention away from your desk to eat.
Take your time. Have some vegetables, maybe a salad. Plan a dessert, such as fruit or a yoghurt. Sit away from your desk and enjoy it. Swap the rushed lunch for a mindful break. Better for you, better for your digestion.
There is nothing worse than sitting for a full day, right? Your back hurts, your spine is strained, and you don’t get anywhere near your 10,000 steps a day.
So why do we silently agree to be bound to our desks? Taking a lunch break means you can go for a walk. You can stretch, get some fresh air, get a bit of exercise, and maybe find a little spot for a bit of yoga. The smallest amount of physical activity can have a positive effect on your concentration. So especially when you think you cannot afford to take a break, is exactly when you should really take your lunch (or even coffee) break.
Sitting too much is bad for your circulation and metabolism and can increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease. So getting up and walking around will lower the risk of these diseases.
You will also notice you will have less of a strain on your spine because continuous sitting is bad for your posture, neck and back and getting up regularly and walking will relieve some of that pressure on your spine.
You can walk around your building if it is raining or find a chair away from your desk for some seated yoga and stretches, but ideally, go outside.
Continuously being in fluorescent light is bad for your eyes and brain. Getting a few extra moments of natural light each day will make you feel better.
Plus, there is nothing worse than feeling like you go to work in the dark and come back in the dark. The winter blues is difficult, but can mostly be avoided if you get out during your break and catch some daylight while you can.
In addition, it means you will be more aware of the weather each day and the seasons changing.
You can enjoy the sun when it’s there, take your time shopping when you know it’s raining, and see when the leaves are changing and you want to plan a weekend day out.
Running errands is not relaxing, but it still lowers your stress levels.
You can use your lunch break to go to the post office and return a dress, or do your shopping. It’ll mean you won’t need to do after work when everyone is rushing and there are queues everywhere and you’re tired.
By ticking a few things off your to-do list at lunch, you will earn yourself an evening off for some much-needed self-care.