We all know it's good for us, but not enough of us do it. No, I'm not talking about flossing after meals. I'm referring to taking a break...
We all know it’s good for us, but not enough of us do it.
No, I’m not talking about flossing after meals. I’m referring to taking a break at work or eating lunch somewhere besides your cubicle.
Maybe you think you can be more productive if you just keep jamming away at your keyboard.
Or maybe it’s your corporate culture. No one ever steps away to eat, and anyone who does risks being branded lazy or unambitious.
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The thing is, most of us work better when we unglue our butts from our chairs every now and then. A break, even if it’s just a 15-minute walk outside or a “retreat” to the office patio to listen to your iPod, can be downright rejuvenating.
“Taking a lunch break does help me get through the afternoon,” says Leslie Einhaus, a 29-year-old newsletter editor in Moscow, Idaho. “I’ll go home and take out the dog. I feel refreshed. I know it helps me be a better employee, as hokey as it sounds.”
It also can be more relaxing to eat with colleagues or in an environment where you can focus on and enjoy your food. And, I know that I eat less when I’m not just stuffing my face.
So I am launching a crusade. Try to get away from your desk for lunch or some enjoyable activity at least once a week. It’s a goal I hope to accomplish for myself as well. Too often, I end up wolfing down my turkey sandwich in front of a computer screen, convinced I’m getting more work done when all I’m really doing is crumbing up my keyboard tray.
Here are some tips on how — and why — you should give yourself a break.
In some offices, taking lunch may be unheard of, unless you’re a manager or you’re attending some office-related function.
Still, stepping away once a week should be OK, assuming you don’t have a specific task that has to be done at that time.
I once worked at an office where no one ever took lunch. But that didn’t stop one new hire, who always made a point of taking a break. He’d go outside for a walk, sit in the lunch area and read a newspaper — and made no apologies. No one begrudged him, either, because he always got his work done and never appeared to avoid helping other people out.
“I can’t remember a time where I’ve heard of someone getting in trouble for taking lunch or a break if they’re hard workers,” says Carly Drum, a managing director at Drum Associates, an executive search firm. “The key is how you prioritize your day around that and get other things done.”
Plan, plan, plan
Don’t just wait for your break to happen. Sign up for the lunchtime yoga class or ask a colleague to lunch. Or maybe just bring your sneakers to work and go for a half-hour stroll.
If you’re worried that taking a break will hurt your career, think again. Lunch can be a perfect opportunity to network, whether it’s catching up on office happenings with colleagues or meeting with a friend at another company.
You can also build relationships with people in other departments, so that if you’re ever interested in pursuing jobs in those areas, you have a contact.
“I go out with my colleagues about once or twice a month,” says Einhaus. “It makes us all closer. We spend so much time working together, it makes sense to get to know each other a little more.”
Lunch once a week should be OK in most environments. A break to use the office gym should also be kosher, especially since your employer sponsors the gym and ostensibly wants you to use it. But you’ll have to assess your office culture before doing much more.
Even if your office really frowns upon lunch, there are still ways to get away. Get a group of colleagues together from your department or the one next door for a working lunch.
“It gives you that same type of break where you remove yourself from the office environment and your desk,” Drum suggests. “You can talk about work things, but it will be more relaxed.”