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Want to be productive? Don’t skip lunch

It seems that every office has its share of employees who appear so dedicated to their jobs that they are always available, never or seldom take a lunch break, and when they do take a break, they remain working at their desk. This fosters the belief among other employees that if they also want to be, or at least appear to be, productive, then they must follow the same practice of skipping lunch. This is a bad idea.

While the traditional lunch hour may be on its way out for most business and technology professionals, if employees don’t stop and take a break to eat, it will actually reduce productivity. This is according to an article on The Washington Post’s website titled, “You may look more productive skipping lunch, or eating at your desk. But you aren’t.”

The reason is simple. Your brain needs energy to work properly and if you deprive it of a steady flow of energy, then it won’t function as well as it should. Foods rich in a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats have been proven to improve people’s memory test results. In fact, according to the article, slow-release carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables provide the best results.

Another equally important reason is that your brain needs to take a break from cognitively-demanding work such as problem solving, managing, or being creative. Plus, taking a break from stress-related work, such as the constant flow of emails, can help recharge your brain.

To help fine-tune productivity even more, research in the article recommends changing your surroundings during your break, especially if you can go somewhere like a park, patio, or near a window. Natural environments tend to be restoring and an ideal lunch break would be to eat outside.

However, while it’s clearly beneficial to take a break, this still may not eliminate the perception that an employee is somehow less dedicated and productive. An argument can be made that the quality of a person’s work has nothing to do with the quantity of work and an employee doesn’t have to take an entire hour away from his or her desk in order to receive the cognitive benefits. So go ahead, take a lunch break. Your brain will thank you.