“Lunch is for wimps.” You might recognize this line spoken by Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street. Do you feel the same? How many days out of the year do you skip lunch or just eat at your desk while working? Although I never skipped lunch, for many years I worked through the vast majority of my lunch breaks. The numbers show that I was not alone. In his book entitled: “When – The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (Penguin Random House LLC: 2017), Daniel Pink states that, by one estimation, 62% of American office workers eat lunch at their desk.
Is eating lunch while sitting at your desk a good thing? According to Pink, the research suggests that it is not. A 2016 study that looked at more than 800 workers from 11 different organizations, found that “…non-desk lunchers were better able to contend with workplace stress and showed less exhaustion and greater vigor not just during the remainder of the day but also a full one year later.” (Pink:65) According to the researchers, “Lunch breaks offer an important recovery setting to promote occupation health and well-being – particularly for employees in cognitively or emotionally demanding jobs.” (Pink:65) Given that practicing law is cognitively and emotionally demanding, then surely lawyers would benefit from taking a lunch break.
But what makes a “good” lunch break? According to Pink, autonomy and detachment are the key ingredients. Pink states that “Autonomy – exercising some control over what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and whom you do it with – is critical for high performance, especially on complex tasks.” (Pink:65) As for detachment, it must be both psychological and physical. Staying focused on work (or even social media) during our lunch break only intensifies our fatigue; whereas shifting our focus away from work entirely has the opposite effect. In fact, Pink notes that it can even help with the mid-afternoon energy drain that people normally experience during a workday – a period, he notes, when people are generally more prone to making mistakes. (Pink:65-66)
So, the next time you want to skip lunch or eat at your desk while working, think again. Go to the lunchroom. Go outside. Do any activity that helps you detach from work. Ever since I began working from home during the pandemic, I’ve always made sure to not only take a lunch each day, but also to specifically take my break away from my desk – even when there was truly no where to go. Some days I take my dog for a walk just to get outside and clear my head. I always find these pauses to be immediately restorative and they put me in a good head space to tackle the afternoon with vigour.
Struggling with developing your resilience? I’ve been there. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help you on your path to improving your resilience.