Health Defence Blog
Hilary Stevenson

Guest blogger: Hilary Stevenson - CHSS Participation & Training Manager

February 19, 2018

Time’s up on sticky keyboards and "working lunches"

Today the average time taken to eat lunch is roughly 15 minutes.  I admit it. I am guilty of not taking time for myself at lunchtime. I don’t know why I think anything in my inbox is more important than my health or sense of well-being.  I also don’t know why anyone ever thinks “working lunches” are a good idea. But people do. So now I’m calling (lunch) time on sticky keyboards and working lunches.

None of us are machines, we are people. People with certain physical and mental limitations that sometimes get forgotten in the busy world in which we all live, work and play.

We spend a good deal of our time at work. For some of us like me that means working in an office. I try hard to remember that just because I’m at work, I still need to look after myself and the people around me. Every day we all need to get moving from our desks during the day, particularly at lunchtime. Research supports the fact that sitting for too long is extremely unhealthy.  A brisk walk is the order of the day over lunchtime to improve overall health and productivity whatever the day job. When my colleagues and I go out for a lunchtime walk, it’s a win for us as we’ve been fed, watered and exercised and a win for our employer as we come back refreshed and ready for the afternoon.

Some of my greatest ideas have come to me in the shower when I have let my mind wander. When I need some inspiration or a new idea, taking a break and going outside into the fresh air where I can clear my  head, and breathe the air helps enormously... There I am similarly “free” as I am in the shower to consider ideas that can potentially solve the problems that are bothering me.

I am well aware there are still folks who seem to think the lunchtime “rules” don’t apply or who need convincing of the value of a break at lunchtime. I find this really surprising despite all the information and research evidencing the contrary. I know eating at my desk or during a meeting means my attention is neither fully on my work nor on my lunch and multi-tasking like this makes me (and everyone else in the meeting) unhealthy eaters and less productive.  

I know that if I pay attention to what I’m eating, I’ll enjoy and appreciate my lunch more. I’ll also eat less… a calm, mindful lunch with a trim waistline thrown in as a bonus!  Everyone should be able to participate in these simple things. Just writing this makes me glad I switched off the computer and took time out to eat my lunch today.

Lunchtime is of course a great networking opportunity. Such a choice of people to catch up with – new and current colleagues as well as old friends, all making the most of their lunchtime. If I occasionally didn’t “do” lunch on a weekday, I wouldn’t see half my friends from one years end to the next.  Going to lunch with colleagues is similarly fun, builds our working relationships and enhances everyone’s job satisfaction, health and well-being. The key here is making it a social occasion, not an extension of work.

Common sense dictates that if you want to do your best work, you need to move away from your desk or take a break from that working lunch.  You deserve it and you’ll be all the healthier for it.

More than that taking a proper lunch break wherever I am has other benefits….not least that my keyboard is no longer sticky and  full of crumbs nor my desk littered with the lunchtime debris.

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***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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