Reinventing the lunch break

If you are anything like most city workers, you will never leave the confines of your desk, from the moment you arrive at work in desperate need of a second (or fifth) coffee, to the time you leave (the cleaner’s vacuum cleaner nudging you to leave the building).

A study in 2018 by recruitment website, Totaljob’s, reveals only a third of UK employees leave their workplace for a break during the day, and worse, over half do not take a decent lunch break, citing too much work as the main reason.

Take a City Micro-Break

At Sacked in the City, we firmly believe that taking a lunch break is essential, even if it’s for 20-30 minutes. So much so, it should perhaps be compulsory for office chairs to drive us to the front door of our office at a set time, and tip us onto the pavement; only allowing us back later.  This is not self-indulgence.  Taking a break will boost your productivity, meaning that when you return, you will get that task you needed to get done faster.  We are not machines – we need time to recharge and allow our brains to reset after a morning of work.

So, having established that you should be out of the office every day for lunch, the next question is what to do with your new-found time.  If you are in a UK city like London, you have the world at your doorstep. The options are endless, and with a little planning, you will look forward to going to work – a rather novel concept for many.

One way to plan your lunchtimes is to do something new every day.

Monday could be exploring day, when you find a new corner of the city, learning about its history, perhaps visiting a small museum you have never considered going to.

Tuesday could be ‘chill-out’ day when you find a park and do yoga stretches, tai-chi or people watch.  You could even join an organised lunch-time meditation session, such as those provided by innerspace.org.uk.

Wednesday could be a food street market day.  London has an abundance of street food markets which provide a wonderful opportunity to try a new style of cuisine while watching the world go by.   The sights and smells are wonderful, and without a doubt beats a sandwich from ‘Pret’ any day of the week.

On Thursday, you might feel like an injection of culture, perhaps in the form of a lecture.  The National Gallery provides free lunchtime lectures with fascinating subjects, St Olave’s and St Katherine’s churches in the heart of the City provide lunchtime recitals of classical music.

After a long week of work, on Friday you could go to a lunchtime class, to learn a new skill, including art, music, or a language.  The Imperial College has a series of ‘lunchtime learning’ classes which run for a period of 10 or 20 weeks, covering subjects such as ‘the joy of art’, and ‘creative writing’.

Thisis by no means a prescription for how you use your lunchtimes; you can slice and dice your valuable break in many ways to suit your personality and style.  And before long, you will wonder why you ever sat in the office struggling over that problem, complaint, query, or urgent demand.  It will be there when you return, and more importantly, you will be physically and mentally equipped to tackle it effectively.

Looking at the long-term view

Let’sjustimagine we have jumped three years into the future and having adopted this new lunchtime persona; you are looking at what you have achieved.  The chances are, you may have a new-found love of your city, and perhaps even look forward to going to work.  You may have learned exciting skills, or a hobby, acquired knowledge, and made new friends.  You may even have received a promotion due to your cheery demeanour and ability to be productive.

If all of this were not enough, you would almost certainly feel physically, mentally, and emotionally better off for your changes, and you may even be smarter. New experiences cause the release of the brain chemical, dopamine, which encourages new neural connections and pathways, increasing your ‘cognitive potential’.  Research shows that our brains receive a considerable boost by seeking novelty, challenging ourselves, thinking creatively, doing things the hard way (e.g. putting down our mobile phones, and navigating the city without Google Maps), and networking with new people.

Who would have expected such benefits just by going for a lunch break? The new you will thank you for it.

BDBF are employment law specialists. Please contact us confidentially on 020 3828 0350 for employment law advice.