Why You Should Take A Lunch Break, Even If You Work From Home

The facts don't lie. Per the U.S. Travel Association, Americans took an average of just 17.4 vacation days in 2018, throwing out a collective (and head-turning) 768 million days off in the process. And that's not all: While most of us seem not to know how to stop and smell the roses, we've even forgotten how to catch a breath — because 62% of Americans admitted to lunching à deux with their computers in 2016, per The New York Times, suggesting that the post-Zoom percentage is even higher.

It wasn't always like this. David Lewis, who heads a human resources consulting firm, told CNBC that the common trend of dining al desko "actually started in the wake of the Great Recession in 2009, when employers cut to the bone, leaving little time for those that remained to take a leisurely lunch." From that point on, workers' midday meal became more of "a grab-and-go event."

While this setup might sound like one that would make bosses get up and dance, it shouldn't. The University of Toronto's John Trougakos, a professor of organizational behavior, told The Wall Street Journal that "humans can typically focus and perform well in 90-minute bursts," while "pushing through for long stretches can cause us to make more mistakes and be less efficient." Other experts agree. University of Wisconsin professor of psychology and psychiatry Richard Davidson explained to Well+Good that taking a pause "can help conserve our resources and renew and refresh our capacity to pay attention."

Lunch breaks serve an important purpose

Davidson considers "real" lunch breaks paramount because they provide us with the chance to "check in" with ourselves, teaching us to be mindful, live in the moment, and recognize that we don't always need to be multitasking, per Well+Good. Plus, just as it's easy to overeat while watching TV, chowing down on lunch while working can make us miss cues from our bodies that we're full.

While you may not know it, not taking that break ultimately has an impact on the way you feel about your job. The Tork Take Back the Lunch Survey, which was conducted among North American workers in 2017, showed that those who take a lunch break tend to give higher job satisfaction ratings. They're also more likely to stay at the same company and recommend their workplace to others. 

Though most team leaders say they tell their employees to take a lunch break, bosses are actually known to sniff at those who do, reflected in their performance evaluations. Still, the next time you're tempted to take scarf down your sandwich at your work station, you may want to tell your duties you'll need to take a rain check and give your brain a chance to breathe. Your boss may not recognize it at first, but they should soon realize that the short pause will benefit your work in many ways.