Thirty-nine percent of white collar employees eat their lunch at their desk, research shows.
Researchers have given all desk-chained employees in America some good news: it behooves their employers to let them out for lunch.
Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, told National Public Radio that studies indicate the longer the work day in an office, the more necessary a lengthy break outside of the office is necessary to improve creativity and productivity.
According to a 2012 study done by Right Management, only 19 percent of full-time American office workers take a lunch break away from the office or their work desk, while 39 percent take a lunch break at their work station and 28 percent do not take a lunch break at all.
Elsbach said getting away from your desk, whether you eat or not, is a key to improved creativity and production for the later hours of the work day.
“We know that creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to a nature-like environment, to a natural environment,’’ Elsbach said. “Staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It’s also detrimental to doing that rumination that’s needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment.”
Elsbach notes that some lunch hours are union and contract mandated, which reduces the percentage of people who take a lunch break voluntarily.
There are business cultures where lunch hours are required. Singapore’s thriving business community not only requires lunch hour participation, most businesses take the break at the same time, noon to 1 p.m. - so that the downtown restaurants are prepared for the onslaught of customers coming in at the same time every day.
Also, recent research by Toronto Rehabilitation Institute shows that sitting for eight hours in a 24-hour day, even when the sitting is not done in one or two long periods, can be detrimental to your health, leading to a higher rate of diabetes and cancers.
The Harvard Business Review looked into the office habit of 5- or 10-minute coffee breaks and found that they were not conducive to greater creativity or productivity, unless a worker spent the time on a work-related matter such as discussing office matters with a colleague.
“But, if people use (lunch breaks) to take time to reflect positively on work, to broaden their horizons, to learn something new, or to relax, their attentiveness is higher right after lunch and sometimes even still when they leave work,’’ said HBR researcher Charlotte Fritz. “Thus, it seems that work-related and non-work-related activities can be beneficial during lunch breaks.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.