Written by James Ward

To lunch or not to lunch?

I’ve always been of the belief that getting away from my computer screen at lunchtime during the working day is crucial in ensuring that I remain productive and can concentrate to the best of my ability right up until home time.

My viewpoint is backed up by research which proves that taking a lunch break, or even multiple short breaks throughout the day, provides an opportunity for our brains to recuperate:

“Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative. It exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections you can if your brain is more rested. If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favours.” –  Kimberly Elsbach – Management Professor, University of California

Unfortunately, the work philosophy at previous employers of mine has not always mirrored this view and it’s been frowned upon if I took myself away from my desk to grab a sandwich or do some exercise.

Further to this, a recent BBC survey involving 600 office workers found that:

  • 54% regularly work through their lunch break.
  • 53% believed the culture of not taking lunch breaks to be widespread in their workplace.
  • 20% felt under pressure from managers not to take a break.

An expectation to have to work through lunch does not improve the wellbeing of employees. In turn, this clearly impacts an organisation’s ability to be successful, as it stands to reason that unhealthy, unhappy employees are less likely to be productive at work.

However, at BDA, I’m glad to say that taking a break at lunchtime is actively encouraged. A number of the team here, like me, enjoy keeping fit. Therefore, you’ll always find somebody going out for a run, pushing hard during a Shaun T Focus T25 session in the BDA ‘gym’, or doing some yoga. Others will simply stretch their legs and go for a wander into town.

For me, running is the activity of choice. Two or three times a week, I’ll be out pounding the streets of Buckingham, mixing up my training with either high intensity sessions or gentle recovery runs. We’re fortunate to be in a small town, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get out into the ‘sticks’ and enjoy some scenic routes if I don’t fancy running on the Buckingham pavements. Also, the area is not pancake flat, so runs are interspersed with some challenging hill climbs, which creates some decent variety in my training. The biggest plus for me, however, is to have that chance to clear my mind of all distractions; to give me that clarity of thought to be able to map out the remainder of my day.

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Exercise, of course, has many benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood and increasing confidence and self-esteem – all assets that add value in the workplace.

I’d say that the only real downside to having an active workforce at BDA is that there’s normally a queue for the shower each lunchtime!

I’ll sign off on this rather amusing note:

“I run six to eight miles a day, plus weights and aerobics in the lunch hour. I also lie a lot, which keeps me thin.” – Hugh Laurie