April 29, 2013
3 Reasons You Should Leave For Lunch

It happens: we all need to work through lunch from time to time. Eating at your desk while checking email feels productive and raises the tantalizing prospect that you might be able to get home early.

But here’s the problem: Inbox management expands to fill the available space, whether you work through lunch or not. And there are several good reasons to take a break for a mid-day meal. Here are just a few.

1. Stepping away boosts creativity.

A change of scenery and letting your mind wander can spark new connections. Indeed, some research has found that people are particularly prone to good ideas during transition times — that is, times when you’re not actively thinking about a problem. That’s why you get good ideas in your car, in the shower or lying in bed.

Getting up from your desk and going to lunch creates a transition time in the middle of the day, and may just untie a knot you’ve been working on all morning.

2. Lunch is a chance to bond.

Taking an employee out for lunch is motivational. Paying for someone’s meal taps into that part of the human brain that naturally wants to reciprocate — which is one reason drug companies used to take physicians out for meals. It really did affect prescribing behavior. Of course, in your case, all you want is for your team members to work hard, and a one-on-one lunch can give a nudge in that direction.

Not only that, but it may save you time. You probably carve out time in your schedule to meet with each direct report relatively frequently. Since you have to eat anyway, why not do that meeting over a meal?

3. Taking breaks makes you more productive.

In an October 2007 Harvard Business Review article called “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy describe an experiment at several Wachovia bank branches in New Jersey. Some employees went through a wellness program that gave instructions on taking frequent breaks and managing emotions.

At the end of the experiment, compared to a control group, the energy management group had achieved (on a year over year basis) a 13 percentage point greater increase in revenue from loans, and a 20 percentage point greater increase in revenue from deposits. That’s enough cash to eat pretty well.

Do you take a lunch?

Laura Vanderkam
Laura Vanderkam is the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2012) and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She writes the 168 Hours blog for CBS MoneyWatch, is a member of USA Today's Board of Contributors, and speaks frequently about time management and leadership topics. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

Other Articles by Laura Vanderkam:

How To Give Regular Feedback And Still Get Work Done

Why And How Managers Should Help Workers Set Boundaries

Work-Life Balance Is Dead—Why That Might Be A Good Thing

It’s Time To Stop Asking CEOs How They 'Balance'

How To Figure Out Your Optimal Workload

7 Common Mistakes New Managers Make

The Right Way To Use Company Perks

How To Figure Out Your Most Productive Time Of Day

Why You Should Rethink That Morning Meeting

5 Ways To Keep Your Best Employees From Quitting