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Is Lunchtime Lost Productivity?

written by: Marjory Pilley•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/28/2010

Many home office workers eat lunch at their desk, or they use the time to run errands and perform personal chores. At first glance, this may seem like a good way to make lunchtime more productive, but is it?

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    Skip Lunch to Get More Done

    According to a survey conducted by KFC Corp., 58% of American workers admit to eating lunch and continuing to work at their desks.3 For those who chronically multi-task or skip lunch altogether, there must be a productivity benefit...right?

    • It's an opportunity to catch up on work, such as responding to email or reading. At some level, work is accomplished.
    • If you are engrossed in a task, then you don't lose time picking up where you left off. It takes time to re-engage once you leave an activity.
    • You are available to answer questions, take calls, and assist others who are working at the lunch hour, which increases the productivity level for both you and others.
    • You may be perceived as dedicated and hard-working. For the person who works at home, this will be most apparent when you let others know what you are up to.
    • A lunch that is combined with learning, such as in a seminar or with a work-related speaker, can be invigorating.
    • Business lunches may offer a break from the normal routine and provide opportunities to network and further your career.

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    Take Lunch and Reap the Benefits Later

    On the other hand, if you set aside time each day to enjoy a break from work-related matters and eat lunch, then your productivity later in the day and your general attitude toward work is impacted. According to Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working, peak productivity is achieved by working in 90 minutes intervals, with a break after each interval, such as for lunch.1

    • When you break away from work and do something entirely different, then new ideas or solutions to problems are more likely to occur. Procrastination may also be overcome.
    • Focusing on eating enables you to properly nourish your body which in turn leads to more energy in the afternoon. Increase the benefit by eating protein-rich foods.
    • Removing yourself from a home office will allow you to stretch and exercise muscles. Exercise will lead to better concentration in the afternoon. Consider taking a walk or otherwise fitting in your daily dose of exercise.
    • Lunching with someone can improve your attitude toward work and reduce stress. This socialization is particularly helpful for a person who works at home and may feel isolated,
    • The day may actually seem shorter because the work periods have been broken up.
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    Make the Most of Lunchtime

    There will always be exceptions to your routine and reasons to work through lunch. Follow these tips to make sure that your lunchtime can regenerate your productivity later in the day.

    • If you routinely work during the typical lunch hour, then schedule a break at some other point during the day to relax.
    • Choose a lunch activity that will allow you to easily return to a work routine. When you work at home, it is easy to become fully absorbed in a household-related activity.
    • Schedule a lunch hour on your calendar so everyone will know your availability.
    • Choose activities that will maximize your sense of escape. Reader' suggests taking in nature, daydreaming, napping, eating a healthy lunch or exercising.2
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