Let’s Talk About Lunch Breaks

Filed Under: Best Practices


When in the office, people tend to get into the habit of eating lunch at their desk… studies have shown that’s not ideal… but now it’s even easier. Even if we’re all (or most of us) still working at home, that doesn’t mean taking a lunch break isn’t just as important.

At our “old” office (pre-September 2019), I got into the habit of eating lunch at my desk every day. We didn’t have a great place for people to gather, and it just got comfortable. And then I got into the habit of just working through lunch/eating while I worked. Watching my colleagues doing the same thing, I knew I wasn’t the only one. 

Fast forward to September 2019, we moved into our shiny new office at 150 North Michigan, which came complete with a “café” space. This café space provided a lot more room to congregate with others – and it was definitely encouraged by management when we moved in. So, for the six months we were at that beautiful space before pandemic work-from-home, I started making it a point to try and take time to eat lunch there every day. And it started to be something I looked forward to each day… it was a way to chat about non-work things with my colleagues, and it gave me a chance to get to know those I don’t work with regularly. Most of all, it also forced me to take a break from work. Sometimes those lunches were only 20-30 minutes, but it made a difference. And I don’t think it required me to work any later each day – because whether I realized it or not, it re-energized me.

Now, we’re working from home, and it’s even easier to forego that lunch break – especially when hitting a busy stretch. There’s no café to go to, no lunch to get from a nearby restaurant… lunch is just a few steps away in the kitchen for many of us. So, a conscious effort to take a break is even more important.

Technically, our lunch is an hour – and I try to take a majority of that. I encourage those on my team to do so as well… even if we don’t have a “need” to step away from the desk as we might at the office, that break is still important. Here are some things I try to keep in mind when I’m tempted to “just keep going” through lunch…

  • Everyone always talks about trying to limit screen time… well, now we’re all on the computer every day – Zoom fatigue, anyone? Remember, we at least used to get away from the computer for in-person meetings. So, force yourself to step away!
  • Just a little mental break can make a world of difference. When I’m having a stressful day, I know that looking forward to the small lunch break makes a huge difference.
  • Rather than “losing time” during a lunch break, you’ll probably actually be more productive and/or creative after having that break.

And, what good would a blog be without a few tips:

  • Even if you don’t take the full hour, some time can help. And you might not need an hour to just eat lunch… but there are other ways to fill your “lunchtime” – for example, go for a walk,  meditate, watch your favorite show, read a book, play with your pet(s) or your kids, etc. Take advantage of the things that may not be an option when we’re back in an office.
  • Block time on your calendar for your lunchtime. Of course, it may require you to be flexible if a meeting needs to happen during that time (for example, if it’s a client’s only free window) – but at least people won’t be inclined to schedule a meeting (or offer that window to others at the first pass) if you don’t appear to be free. Beyond that, it also reminds you to take a break.
  • If you’re managing a team (or a company), encourage your employees to take lunch breaks (and let them know that you do, too!). Don’t be part of the 22% who think those taking lunch breaks aren’t hardworking – show your team that you care about their well-being and understand the benefits of those breaks.

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