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How Long Is Your Lunch?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 2/15/2014

Do you leave your office for your lunch hour, sit at your desk and eat, or skip lunch altogether? You can probably guess what the healthiest option is.

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    Don't Skimp on Your Lunch Break!

    How often do you take a real lunch break? A recent survey by OfficeTeam revealed that about half of us (48%) take lunch breaks that are 30 minutes or less, and 29% of us actually work during our lunch break. Which is the more effective way to use our time? Can taking a full 30-minute break from work really increase productivity?

    For the 29% who work through lunch, analysts say that skipping lunch not only decreases their productivity, it affects workers’ health. "Lunch breaks aren't just for eating -- they provide time to clear your head and recharge," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.

    Studies show that breaks as short as 30-seconds can increase your productivity up to 13%. A 15-second break from staring at your computer screen every ten minutes can reduce your fatigue 50%. A 5-minute break every hour reduces arm, wrist and hand discomfort. An hour break for lunch is essential for health, well being and productivity; without the break, productivity and quality of work suffer.

    As I previously wrote in an article about the importance of taking mental breaks, longer hours do not translate into more productivity—it’s just the opposite. “The thought process is not designed to be continuous,” explains James A. Levine, a professor at the Mayo Clinic. John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management agrees. “Mental concentration is similar to a muscle. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover.”

    Twenty-one U.S. states have work laws that require all full time employees to take a lunch break during the day, In those states, employees who work more than five or six hours at a time typically must be allowed to take a half hour to eat. While that’s not an optimum number of states or an optimum amount of time off, it is a step in the right direction.

    For those workers who do take a full lunch, you might notice that the work is easier and how much more productive you are when you get back. Your day is more enjoyable and probably goes by faster, too.

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    A Few Tips

    Here are some tips for making the most of your lunch break:

    • Take a real break. Walk away from your computer. Talk to people for a few minutes. Go to the water cooler and get a drink.
    • Eat well at lunch. Use your lunch break to actually eat a healthy meal. Your brain and your body will thank you.
    • Get out. Take a walk outside or exercise at the gym.
    • Don't eat alone. Join coworkers in the break room or grab a bite with others outside the office. Your lunch break is a great opportunity to socialize with colleagues and make new networking connections.
    • Check items off your list. Give yourself an excuse to leave. Take care of errands during lunch so you’re not rushing to do them after work.

    Give your eyes, mind, fingers, wrists, back, legs and spine a break by leaving your desk during your lunch hour. You’ll find the daunting tasks you set aside are much easier to tackle when you’ve taken time away from your workspace.

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