By Sarah Landrum
Breakfast gets all the credit, but for nine-to-fivers, lunch is a pretty important meal too. There’s only one problem — lots of employees fail to take their midday break. Instead, they sit at their desks and eat as they continue to work.
Although this seems like a time-conscious choice, failure to take a lunch break can actually sabotage your success in the long run. Here are six reasons why.
1. You’ll feel less focused
Sitting at your desk during lunch might seem like the productive choice — not taking your eyes off your to-dos means you’ll get more done, right? It turns out that you’ll feel much more focused if you walk away from your computer and eat lunch elsewhere. This is especially true if your break involves some sort of physical activity, such as a short walk.
One study by Bristol University found that employees who took a walk over their lunch break returned feeling a 21 percent boost in their concentration and 41 percent more motivated to work.
Simply changing things up and heading outside can help you pay more attention when you’re back indoors too. At the very least, a view of the outdoors — especially if that vista is lush and green — can boost your mood, which will only improve your work performance.
2. You’ll lose brain power
Another pro for lunch — the foods you eat can help stimulate your brain, boost your energy and enhance your overall focus. Try incorporating healthy ingredients such as avocado, whole grains, nuts, blueberries or fish to reap all the best brain-related benefits. Balance nutrients by adding protein and fiber for an energy boost to make it through the day, rounded out with whole grains, fruits and veggies.
To that end, if you’re not in the habit of doing so, start packing your own healthy lunches ASAP. That way, you can control what you’re eating and ensure that your midday meal will sharpen your mind.
3. You’ll feel stressed
We can’t promise that a lunch break will get rid of all your work-related stress. But taking time to eat lunch — without multitasking or even scrolling through your social media feeds — gives you time to clear your mind. Because you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, you’ll return to your desk more focused.
But if you dedicate your half-hour — or another small period in your afternoon — to a relaxing activity, such as mindfulness meditation, you will also feel your stress fizzle. And you already know the effects stress has on your work and state of mind. By getting rid of it with a quiet, thoughtful lunch break, you’ll have much more serene and successful afternoons.
4. Your productivity will suffer
Some of the other pitfalls of powering through lunch point to this already, but it’s worth noting that a break can boost your productivity too. Think about it — you’re working from morning until the late afternoon. Without a break in the middle of that, you’ll feel mentally sluggish by the time 2 or 3 p.m. rolls around.
You might attribute this to the lunch you’re eating and the fact that a full belly makes you want a nap. But giving yourself a mental break will perk you up too — even more than a cup of coffee to counteract a Tupperware full of pasta. And with a renewed sense of energy, you’ll power through the afternoon and feel even more productive than you would have without that lunch break.
5. You’ll be less creative
The creative mind thrives in a state of constant stimulation. That’s not to say you should go and work somewhere with a ton of distractions, but a change of scenery can breathe new life into your workplace pursuits.
Once again, heading outdoors is advisable — nature restores the mind and allows you to think in new ways once you return to your desk. But environments outside your office are stimulating in general.
For example, in the afternoons, creative minds tend to thrive while working in a coffee shop. Rather than the quiet, stark confines of your office, you’ll have the din of other customers ordering and drinking their java as well as the shop’s interesting decor to inspire you. If you can’t work remotely, then at least take a lunch break off-site from time to time for the same effect.
6. You won't make connections at work
There are plenty of simple ways to make friends while you’re on the job. Heading to the break room to eat lunch opens you up to connections with your colleagues — you never know who will sit down next to you and strike up a conversation. And once you have made a few work friends, heading out to lunch together will only strengthen the bond.
You already know the benefits of having buddies and social engagements — you feel better when you're around people you love. But you can carry work connections with you through your career too to help you when you need references, a new job or even career advice — that all could start at lunch.
So, tomorrow — and until you retire — don’t let your lunch break pass you by. Take advantage of that time by grabbing your brown bag and leaving your desk. As you can see, you’ll be better for it.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.