February 23, 2015

Midday Disconnect

Let’s face it. Everyone hesitates to abandon technology at work — especially when it comes to taking a 60-minute lunch break. Although employees may have a date with a healthy salad, if it is consumed while sitting at a desk and comes with a side of email and text messages, there’s no opportunity to refresh.

Far from an outdated notion, the modern lunch break is one of the few opportunities employees have during their entire day to relax. In addition to the physical sustenance lunch provides, a lunch minus work goes the extra mile to help recharge an employee’s mind and spirit while positively impacting productivity.

OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., found in a recent survey of more than 400 U.S. office workers age 18 and older that 48 percent take a lunch break of 30 minutes or less. Twenty-nine percent of those interviewed revealed that they monitor emails and work during their fleeting half-hour lunch.Out to Lunch sign

Consider easy-to-implement solutions to help revive the endangered lunch hour and increase employee performance. Although you can’t force people to take an uninterrupted lunch hour, you can set expectations to demonstrate that health and wellness are valued in the workplace.

  • Create a culture where employees feel comfortable stepping away from email and voicemail, leaving deadlines and projects behind for an hour to eat a balanced meal.
  • Many professional offices, such as physicians and medical, close during the traditional Noon to 1 p.m. lunch hour. Encourage employees to record a voicemail announcement that they are out to lunch and will return calls.
  • An inviting break room entices employees to gather away from their desks and engage with other colleagues. Spiff up your lunchroom and ensure it’s clean, well lit and equipped with comfortable chairs.
  • Start a “Lunch Unplugged Club” that focuses on healthy eating, exercise and socializing. Incent employees with small iTunes or health store gift cards.

And by all means, set an example — step away from your own desk and untether technology during the lunch hour to rejuvenate.

Resource Corner

To maximize the 60-minute lunch hour, create a space for daily mediation, even at work. Human behavior and education expert Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., offers guidelines on a simple 20-minute meditation routine to de-clutter your brain and chase away stress.

This article was researched and written by health and workplace wellness writer Kimberly Winter Stern, who writes health-related content for a national healthcare system, major daily newspapers, and local and regional magazines, as well as culinary stories for The Kansas City Star. She is also the host of a food-related radio show.