The Lunchtime Experiment

Research has shown that two-thirds of office workers eat lunch at their desks. I know I’ve been guilty of that, thinking that I’m more productive when I work on those PowerPoint slides while simultaneously finishing off my turkey sandwich. However, there’s an abundance of research to support the benefits of stepping away from our monitors for our midday meals.

At the most obvious level, leaving your desk for lunch gives you an opportunity to regroup, refresh and relax. The human brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it needs a break so it’s extra important to get away from your desk in order to be more productive when you return. It may seem counterintuitive that taking time away from your desk for lunch will make you more productive, but the data is clear. We must take breaks in order to be more productive and do our best work (click to tweet).

In addition, it’s important to get up and leave your desk for lunch because, as I have written about before, extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism, lowering the amount good cholesterol in our bodies and raising the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Leaving the building to go get your lunch, or walking around the block if you have brought your lunch, is vital.

Lastly, the social benefits of leaving your desk are immense; it increases the chances that you will interact with a colleague, adding a more communal dimension to your day. At a minimum, you can have a nice conversation with a colleague, but this could also serve as a great opportunity for you to learn about another area of the business, discuss a new client engagement or even establish an opportunity for a new piece of work.

Knowing all of this, but not eating out nearly enough, my team and I started The Lunchtime Experiment where we eat lunch together, but away from our desks. It has been a real game-changer.

By leaving my office, I encounter so many more people than I normally would. I’ve gotten to know people who work on other teams, I’ve hobnobbed with some of our senior executives, and I’ve met Ketchum employees visiting from other regions. Overall I feel much more connected to the office. During one particularly exciting day, leaving my desk and sitting by the open space near reception even led to a celebrity sighting. Lesson: leave your desk, see celebrities … sometimes.

These social lunches away from my desk have led to fresh ideas and meaningful new relationships. I had underestimated how refreshed I would feel from these short lunchtime breaks, and I highly suggest you all give it a try!

Do you have any other tips to boost focus and creativity? Share your ideas in the comments below!

About Melissa Barry

Melissa is a Senior Consultant on the Organizational Effectiveness team based in our New York office. As an organizational psychologist, she works with various groups throughout Ketchum network and the complementary business units. Melissa helps to counsel teams on strategy implementation, organizational productivity, acquisition integration, team dynamics, and more. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and photography. You can follow Melissa on Twitter @melissabarry.

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