We all lead busy working lives and office workers especially will spend the majority of their working hours sat in the same position. And it’s not unusual to see employees eating lunch at their desk either. In fact, research from BUPA found that less than a third of UK workers take a proper lunch break each day.
The coronavirus crisis has also seen a surge in employees working longer hours. One study found that more than 40% of us are working longer hours at home, meaning we’re even more accustomed to eating at our desks (or wherever we’re working).
The idea of desktop dining during our working hours might seem like we’re relaxing and taking a break, especially when we have access to YouTube and Netflix, but we could be doing more damage to our wellbeing than we think.
Bucking the trend
Desktop dining is becoming an increasing trend in offices due to our dependence on technology and access to the internet. Often, we’ll be reading, listening or watching something interesting on YouTube, maybe we’re browsing our social media platforms or catching up on the latest news – and all this can be perfectly normal, especially if our office space has limited break rooms.
But when we are already sat at our desks for work, using our lunch time to continue sitting down and staring at a screen can impact our physical and mental health, especially if we are not so active outside of work. Remaining at our desk at lunch time, with our inbox open, also means that we can be interrupted by incoming emails, potentially disrupting our valuable break time.
For the younger generations, in particular, internet and smartphones are seen as a necessity with almost a quarter of young people considered so dependent on their smartphones it’s like an addiction. Researchers have even diagnosed people with phone separation anxiety (PSA) because of their dependence on their phone.
Of course, everyone is different and free to spend their breaks and lunch times in whichever way they want, be it in front of a screen or not. However, as an organisation, it’s important to encourage a healthy working lifestyle in order to avoid employees feeling burnt out, ultimately affecting productivity. Encouraging employees to leave the office, or their house, at least once a day, even if it’s just for five minutes, can be a great way to clear their minds and can set them up for the rest of the day. Organising “group virtual walks” or seeing which employee can do the most steps in the working day can also bring an element of fun and competition.
As we enter autumn and winter, and with many companies not planning to return their staff to the office any time soon, wellbeing is even more important and break times away from our desks should be even more encouraged. Heading outside might not be an option during this time so encouraging alternative activities like book clubs, home workout routines and yoga classes can help employees step away from their desks during breaks.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that social distancing restrictions do not have to prevent employees from spending time outside. Of course, we all need to keep our distance from others but if we are in the office with our colleagues, asking them to go for a socially-distanced walk or coffee can be good to get some fresh air.
Contrary to the belief of many workaholics, breaks during working hours do not inhibit work performance, but actually increase it. After all, with a clear head you feel more refreshed and ready to jump back into work with a more open mind.
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