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Reclaim Your Lunch Break

Reclaiming your lunch break is a worldwide initiative designed to get you thinking about taking back your lunch hour which is rightfully yours. It is estimated that more than 70% of American and British employees take no more than 20 minutes lunch break each day and most end up eating a sandwich in front of their computer screen. Unfortunately from what I see in my line of work, I do not think Australians are too far behind in these statistics.

Tony Schwartz, co-author of ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ and founder of The Energy Project, says that ‘we need to stop operating as if we were computers’. Taking breaks is vital for health, sanity and productivity.

In our corporate culture, commitment is measured by the hours spent at one’s desk, rather than how well one does at their job. With this in mind it is not surprising that people have not realised that by skipping a lunch break, workplace productivity falls during the afternoon. This crazy mentality leads to an unprecedented level of stress for employees and this build up of stress can pave the way towards a wide array of health problems. Schwartz and his co-author Jim Loehr in their book, ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ suggest that the way to deal with stress is not through time management, as time is finite, but through energy management. The thought proposes that you will not have enough good energy to perform if you do not focus on managing energy (i.e. guarding, building and maintaining energy levels).

Schwartz and Loerh have conducted a number of studies on professional athletes and the training and performance habits of these individuals. From this research they have come to the conclusion that ‘ordinary’ people should conduct their lives in the same fashion. They suggest that we were designed to perform in 60-90 minute blocks or ‘sprints’, as we cannot stay focused for longer than this time period, after this we need to take breaks for recovery.

This brings us back to the idea of reclaiming your lunch break, getting away from your desk and not scoffing down your lunch in between answering emails and phone calls. By taking back your lunch break you also take back your energy. You give yourself time to switch off and recharge; connect with yourself, connect with friends, actually taste your food and enjoy your life. When you return to your desk you have renewed energy, you are more productive, you are better at problem solving, and are in happier mood with more patience for others. I must be realistic and acknowledge that there are always going to be valid emergencies which pop-up unexpectedly and prevent you from taking a full lunch break, but I believe you can choose whether you let this happen every day.

The NSW Office State of Revenue states that employees are entitled to a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 2 ½ hours unpaid break per day. Can I suggest that by not taking your break you are giving your employer upwards of 200 hours of free manpower every year?!

Reclaim your lunch break – it is yours for the taking! Renew your energy levels by taking time out to eat a healthy lunch, go to the gym, catch up with friends or enjoy some time in the sun. Not only will you receive the benefits of energy management in your professional life, but it will create a positive ripple effect into your personal life also.

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