6 lunch break tips to boost your performance
16 September 2015 -
Skipping lunch may have been advised by fictional banker Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street, but taking advantage of a well-earned daily break can boost productivity, mood and creativity. As well as stopping you from going crazy.
For many, lunch breaks are something to look forward to in the morning, as well providing us with the fuel to power us towards the end of the working day, yet UK employees are among the biggest culprits of devaluing its importance.
Research shows British employees take the shortest lunch breaks in Europe, while three in 10 workers skip lunch altogether. The majority, meanwhile, stay chained to their desks eating a salad, with one hand on the keyboard.
Not advisable, at all.
Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success, explained: “Most people accomplish work best in short bursts with breaks in between, so organizing your schedule around these natural energy peaks will help you be more productive.”
Many workaholics, especially those in the City, media and tech industries, view a lunch break as a distraction from actually doing their work, explaining simply: “I have too much on my plate.” However, a plethora of research shows that taking a concerted daily break from emails, documents and deadlines can actually accelerate your work performance.
Taking a lunch break during the day is an opportunity for resource recovery, allowing workers to refresh their thoughts and reinvigorate themselves for the afternoon. According to a 2012 study in the Academy of Management Review, this leads to improved concentration and better processing of information for the latter half of he day.
Frequently skipping lunch can even have damaging effects on physical health: relaxing breaks were found by researchers to have had a positive impact on reducing blood pressure, asthma and rheumatic complaints, as well as improving quality of sleep.
Here are six ways you can have a better lunch hour to boost your working performance.
Eat the right foods
Starving yourself will leave you unable to concentrate and lethargic later in the day, but researchers have shown junk food is almost as impractical in refuelling the body.
Full of refined carbohydrates, fast food meals are likely to trigger a volatile rise and fall of your blood sugar that will crash within a few hours, leaving you feeling run-down. Equally, heavy lunch meals should be avoided, as our body will spend much of the afternoon trying to digest it, resulting in the notorious ‘afternoon slump’. Nutritionist Karen Collins advises workers opt for light meals that include healthy proteins such as chicken, seafood, nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruit.
The human body clock has a natural dip in energy in the afternoon, approximately around 1-2pm, making it an ideal time to have a short sleep (between 20 minutes to an hour) to recuperate the body and mind. Adherents of lunch-time naps, such as former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, eulogise over its benefits to short- and long-term memory and the thinking process, relaxing the mind and helping break down the clutter of information and ideas picked up during the day.
Furthermore, medical research presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference this year shows daily naps of an hour or more can lower blood pressure and ward off heart attacks.
While working in a large urban city can be fun, it can also be draining. Research shows that taking time away from the noise, hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle by spending some time at a park, by a pond or some other form of green space can help you perform better upon your return to the office.
Requiring less focus and strain on the brain, a stroll through a quiet park has been shown by Heriot-Watt University and University of Edinburgh researchers to refresh workers and allow them to perform better at cognitive tasks than their urban-staying peers.
Wiggle your waist
Working out during the lunch time is nothing new and can be very beneficial in adding more physical exercise to a sedentary day. However, if you’ve neither got the time nor the interest to pump weights or run on a treadmill, hula hooping may be the ideal way to raise a sweat and beat away the stresses of the working day.
Requiring just an adult-size Hula-Hoop, a spot where you won't break anything and an enthusiasm for moving your hips, Minneapolis-based chiropractor and yoga and Pilates instructor Martha DeSante said: "hooping lets you shake off the stresses of the morning, getting your creative and inspired energy flowing so you can tackle your afternoon agenda feeling refreshed and renewed."
From drawing a picture, writing a poem or playing with a train set, managers and employees should consider taking a more artistic lunch. Tied down to the responsibilities of their job, workers can gain a sense of freedom from getting the creative juices flowing.
Creative projects provide a calm and relaxed environment to create, challenge and lose yourself in a pleasurable activity. "Pull out some glitter, glue, markers, paint, or paper, and make something," said Alyson Dias, who works for Fresno, California-based iLoveToCreate.
Make a game out of it
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw famously remarked: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” And businesses are seemingly taking notice by using gaming to help boost the performance of workers, with the likes of Deloitte and EY encouraging team-building and activity-based trips.
University of Utrecht researchers found that computer games improve how employees feel about their jobs, leading to improved absenteeism and better job performance. By taking an hour away from their desks to play with co-workers on a games console, at monopoly or on a chessboard, workers can stimulate healthy and playful competition, while strengthening relationships with colleagues and developing problem solving skills.
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