On Mondays for the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring one of the ideas from Series one of Stop Doing Dumb Things. If you’d like to get your hands on the full set of Stop Doing Dumb Things cards, click here for more details.

Have Lunch Away From Your Desk

As if sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time wasn’t enough – lunch time comes and what do you do? Head out to the nearest sandwich shop, grab something uninspiring to eat, and….take it back to your desk! Research from the BBC in the UK and Right Management in the USA has shown that nearly two thirds of people eat at their desk every day and many feel guilty for leaving their desk for a lunch hour. The research in the USA also links lunching at your desk to higher stress levels and a reduced ability to be creative.

There’s more information and research out there than you can shake a stick at, including this great read by Kerstin Sailer that shows people are more effective in their work when they take regular breaks, but we resolutely choose to sacrifice this golden opportunity to break bread together and share a conversation, in favour of being a desk slave or trying to impress the boss with our frantic schedule. The word company comes from the Latin language, and it means ‘to break bread together’.

A friend of mine in the military tells me that having a meal in the army mess and sitting alone, let alone at your desk, is not an option. When it’s time to eat, people come together to share a meal, to share companionship, and to share conversations and ideas.

Here in London it’s a beautiful sunny warm Autumn Monday, so if you can, take advantage of the weather, go and sit in the park and enjoy your lunch. Whaterver you decide, please, please, don’t do this. Thanks to Mervyn Dinnen for spotting this lunchtime travesty.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

10 thoughts on “Lunchtime”

  1. Doug, spot on – masses of research on taking regular breaks and structuring your day to incorporate them, leading to higher performance and less stress.

    Can I add to this by recommending a couple of things? (Don’t say NO)

    a. mindfulness – Andy Puddicombe and Lifesaver. Meditation to support mindfulness, which makes a huge difference to every aspect of your life.

    b. A book called ‘Winning without losing’ – I was in Edinburgh airport, had some time to kill (was also at a bit of a low ebb about Interimity) and this just sort of shouted out at me, serendipitously. It’s all about being an entrepreneur (or solo artiste) without sacrificing every last shred of your time as well as keeping you motivated. It would work for anyone looking to achieve a better balance.

    The cards look very groovy – hope the pricing experiment is going well…..

    1. Excellent stuff Julia – it’s a yes from me 🙂 (I feel like an X Factor judge!)

      The cards are groovy, and more importantly they’re useful too. I’m enjoying the experiment very much and learning loads – look forward to sharing soon. Meantime – if you want to play, well you know where we are 😉

  2. I’ve not read Kerstin Sailer so thanks for the lead, but I am a huge fan of Tony Schwartz of the Energy Company who started a programme in 2010 called “Take back your lunch” Tony is a huge advocate of taking regular and proper breaks and if you haven’t read his book “The way we’re working isn’t working” it’s really worth it. It’s easy to read, evidence based and there’s a summary of every chapter at the end of the book so you can either refresh your knowledge or find which chapters are of particular interest.
    We’re all creatures of habit so taking a 30 minute walk at lunchtime and eating lunch somewhere other than your desk is a huge ask for most people.
    Thanks for a good read and some useful tips,

        1. Maybe – I prefer to see people exercising good old common sense and just doing it. This is a perfect low level opportunity for all aspiring ‘Proceed Until Apprehended’ types. The following line was in my recent scribblings on tribes:

          ‘Don’t just question authority – explore the nature of it, what does it mean to be free?’

  3. I used to work for the Fire Brigade and the social interaction, very much like the army example above, which happened around the mess table was excellent. I realised fairly early on that visiting a station around morning or afternoon tea breaks was an important way to understand the connections on the watch.

    1. Thanks Andrew – another helpful example. Your example reminded me of some work we did for Guide Dogs a couple of years ago. One of the teams in the organisation seemed much more together, much more effective than many others. Pretty much the only difference we could find between this team and others was that the stronger team regularly ate together. Clients and other people knew which days were lunch together days and they would often come by and join in. Companionship – seems to matter eh? Cheers – Doug.

  4. Of course. I followed it through when I took up my current role and we have a wider OD team lunch on the first Friday after payday. People congregate, bring their own or have food sent in and we take 45 mins to talk together as a group of people having a chat, not a team on a lunchbreak.

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