For many Australian office workers, an hour lunch break is little more than a much pined-after myth.
Instead, shovelling forkfuls of curry, stir fry or salad into your mouth between emails is closer to the norm. And while this may seem like an efficient way of fuelling your brain when you’re far too busy to break, you could be missing out on more than just fresh air.
Here are five good reasons to pick up your Vietnamese pork roll and step away from your keyboard:
You’ll be more productive
Maintaining a continuous stream of work may seem like the most productive way to structure your day, but taking a break helps refresh your mind and can improve your focus and irritability levels.
Three quarters of Australian and New Zealand employees surveyed by Hays back in 2014 said they were more productive after leaving their desk at lunch time.
Meanwhile, adding physical activity into the mix further improves results with a 2015 study finding that taking a half hour lunchtime walk “improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work” for the majority of their participants.
You’ll like your colleagues more
Social butterflies are known to live longer, but that isn’t the only reason you should consider lunching in company.
Eating alongside your colleagues can increase workplace satisfaction, and Professor Brian Wansink, from Cornell University tells the New York Times it can make you “like your job more and like your colleagues better.”
In addition, a recent study conducted across a number of US fire stations found that the fire fighters who not only ate together, but prepared the meal and cleaned it up together, felt they worked more effectively in team environments.
The employees who spent this time in the kitchen together were twice as likely to be cooperative as those who didn’t, and the more the team prepared meals and ate them together, the better they reported performing as a group. The study authors stipulate however, that it is difficult to conclude that these specific actions produce the positive results, as it could simply be that teams that already work well together are more likely to lunch together.
Your colleagues will like you more
Anyone who's eaten smelly food before will know it's often the best tasting kind, but eating it at your desk could be rubbing your co-workers the wrong way.
A recent survey of 1000 office employees found that half believe their colleagues who eat strong smelling food at their desks are “anti-social”, according to the Daily Mail.
They list cheese, oily fish such as mackerel and sardines, and egg sandwiches among the most annoying-smelling lunches.
“Some people may not realise how much of an effect their lunch choices could have on co-workers who sit near them,” Gareth Cowmeadow, who worked on the research, tells Daily Mail.
A better option would be to enjoy your strong smelling food away from your desk and benefit from the other positives that come with that in the process.
You’ll be less stressed
Green spaces have long been associated with lower stress levels, so if you’re fortunate enough to work near a patch of nature - however small - spending your lunch break there can help clear and relax your mind.
Indoor plants around your desk have also been seen to have an impact in improving employee attitudes and reducing blood pressure, but nothing beats a stroll out of doors.
You’ll think more creatively
A German study on female workers in 2013 found that those who ate lunch outside the office and in company reported feeling more relaxed and showed reduced cognitive control with is associated with creativity.
Professor Kimberly Elsbach, from the University of California agrees and tells the Washington Post that “taking a break from cognitively taxing work improves creative thinking, and everybody’s job has a creative component, such as problem-solving, managing teams or finding creative solutions.”
You’ll have fewer crumbs in your keyboard
Nobody likes sitting down to a dirty desk, and crumbs and leftover food are among the worst offenders.
Eating away from your desk not only helps you keep your work space more hygienic, it also stops you transferring germs from your keyboard to your sandwich when taking bites between paragraphs.