Anthony Bennett, co-founder and director at Bennett Hay
Amidst the busy, bustling and often hectic hours of the working day, food and breaks have a tendency to slip down the list of priorities for individuals in the workplace. Far too often, lunchtime can cause a great deal of stress to employees. Where do you eat? What do you eat? Will you offend your colleagues with the smell of your leftovers? Can you afford to be away from your desk for a whole hour? These potential pressures regularly lead to us not eating a nutritious meal or taking an appropriate break, which impacts on our ability to focus, be creative and plays havoc with those troublesome productivity levels.
In 2017, it’s not always easy to take a lunch break during the working day, and we’ve all been guilty of finding excuses to tell ourselves and our colleagues about why we’re skipping the crucial meal. “I’m stuck in a meeting” and “in the middle of something” are common justifications as to why we feel we’re too ‘busy’ to move away from our desks. We are then stuck eating al-desko, making very little movement throughout the working day (walking over to the fridge doesn’t count).
With modern dining offerings in the workplace taking over the well-known highstreet cafes, we’re finally seeing a move towards healthier eating. It’s easier to make healthy choices when the food employers are offering is bespoke to the needs of modern workers. The danger of having your dining on your doorstep is that it’s more important now than ever before to actually take that break, whether it’s an hour or 20 minutes. The benefits of taking a lunch break far supersede just filling the hunger void. Here’s some key things to consider:
Lunch can encourage collaboration and communication
By its very nature, dining is a social activity. People are able to come together in an informal, relaxed setting to enjoy their food and have casual conversations. Increasingly, companies are realising that some of the most innovative and creative ideas happen outside of meeting rooms – in café’s, kitchens or even on staircases where people have chance encounters with colleagues. Conducting brainstorms or meetings over your lunch can often prove to be more productive than forced sessions where people feel pressurised to come up with concepts. Having eating areas which double up as meeting spaces can also contribute to a sense of community, and blurs the lines between work and social space.
Eat the right food
Scientific research has shown that the brain needs fuel. Malnutrition impacts many brain functions, including information processing and memory. Food rich in antioxidants, such as nuts and blueberries, and food that increases the proteins in your brain (which protect the brain cells from damage) such as salmon or eggs are all great memory-boosting foods. Keeping well hydrated and eating a power lunch, such as fibre-packed mixed grains with plenty of vitamin rich vegetables and lean protein like grilled skinless chicken, turkey or fish, can aid in attention and creativity.
At Bennett Hay, we created a nutritional programme called ‘Restore’, as a means of supporting the wellbeing of our guests and educating them on the best foods for their health. A big part of it focuses on the health benefits of eating energy boosting foods.
Having an actual ‘break’ is paramount
Spending eight hours a day at your desk has been found to be detrimental to both mental and physical health. Simply getting up and moving to a new area can help refresh your thoughts and put things in perspective. Take a walk at lunch even if you don’t need to leave the building, take the slightly longer walk home to the station. Simple steps like these can make a big impact on your energy levels throughout the day. Renewed focus will help you to be more productive throughout the afternoon, a time when people succumb to fatigue.
Having too many sugary snacks and quick-fix meals can have a detrimental impact on employees’ energy, stamina, productivity, mood and overall health. Luckily, the converse is also true: eating well can work wonders for the body and mind. It’s all about balancing a combination of nutrient-rich and slow-release high energy foods throughout the day with occasional feel-good indulgences, and making the time to get up from your workstation.