Have you ever been sitting at your desk, looking at the time, thinking “it’s fine, I can just work through my lunch to get this done”?
We’ve all done it - and it doesn’t necessarily equate to something bad if you occasionally work through your lunch break.
But, when it becomes a habit - it can be pretty detrimental to your work-life balance, productivity, and general happiness at work.
You only have one (or two) hours throughout the day to reset your mind
Regardless of what job you do - your brain is incredibly active from the moment you start to the moment you finish. If you’re in a physically demanding role - this only increases, and failure to give your mind and body a rest puts you into a vicious circle of not taking care of yourself.
In reality, you’ve only got a couple of hours a day to reset your mind, relax, and most importantly - eat! You need fuel to function, and resting, taking some time for yourself, and having some social time on your lunch break are incredibly important.
It’s not good for your productivity
If you’re working through your lunch break because you want to be more productive - chances are you’re doing the complete opposite. There are countless articles and studies online that show a decrease in productivity when you don’t take breaks - and your lunch break is included in this!
“Humans are not machines. We have a limited amount of mental energy and focus each day. Sure, you can always pour another cup of coffee, but eventually, you will reach a point where your productivity starts falling off. This is why breaks, particularly during lunch, are so important.
Lunch breaks allow you to detach from stress and recharge. They also give you an energy boost that helps you tackle the rest of your day. Meanwhile, continued stress saps your energy and makes you less productive.”
It’s rarely a life-or-death situation
Take this statement with a grain of salt - as we are mostly alluding to office-based jobs in this piece, as opposed to jobs whereby you’re consistently dealing with life-or-death situations!
On the whole, most office-based roles: corporate, agency, and even customer-facing jobs like retail and hospitality do not require you to be working around the clock, or at least they shouldn’t be demanding this of you.
There will be days when you won’t finish your to-do list for the day - and 99% of the time you can roll over that work to the next day, or speak to your manager or peer about your workload.
You shouldn’t be having to sacrifice only 1–2 hours of your day to relax and recharge and fill that time with work. Instead, focus on prioritising what is urgent for the day, week, and month - and spend time organising your workload so you can be productive whilst also having enough time to take a break and not be overwhelmed.
“That feeling of work burnout is all too common—the loss of motivation, lack of energy, and anxiety about work. It usually comes after an intense period of ongoing work without enough rest and recovery.
Regular lunch breaks may be the answer to burnout. A survey of North American workers found that those who took a daily lunch break were more satisfied with their job and more likely to continue working at the same company” - VeryWell
Setting boundaries is important
This is very hard to do, particularly if you’re in the early stages of your career and you want to impress - it’s understandable that you want to go above and beyond and exceed expectations!
But, if you fail to set boundaries and instead set a precedent that you will work through your lunch, come in early, stay late etc - then it can become even harder to say no to work. Some companies may take advantage of this and see it as an expectation.
You can love your job (and be good at it) whilst also having healthy boundaries in place to make sure you don’t sacrifice other parts of your life that are also crucial for your own well-being!