A senior executive at a Fortune 50 company recently invited my company in to help his team better manage the overwhelming demand he believed was taking a toll on their productivity and their satisfaction.
In a coaching session, I began by asking Richard to describe his own workday. He told me that he arrived at the office about 7:30 a.m. and worked virtually straight through until 9 p.m. He consumed his lunch in less than 5 minutes at his desk. If he went out to dinner, it was for a business meeting.
"That's pretty typical of people at my level, isn't it?" he asked me.
Sadly, it just may be.
What set this executive apart from most I meet is that he recognized this way of working wasn't serving him well. In recent years, he'd stopped exercising and put on considerable weight. He loved his work, and felt energized by it, but he worried that pushing himself so hard was taking a long term toll.
I suggested he begin with a couple of very simple changes. The first was to schedule a time at least three times a week to work out. He did that almost immediately, and successfully — at 6 pm, as a break before returning to work.
The second change I suggested was to get outside for lunch at midday, for at least 30 minutes. He agreed, and we actually scheduled the time in his calendar, with his assistant, but I could tell he wasn't confident he'd make it happen.
I wasn't entirely surprised. The Energy Project has conducted a poll about people's experience in the workplace. Sixty percent of 1200 respondents told us they took less than 20 minutes a day for lunch. Twenty percent took less than 10 minutes. One quarter said they never left their desks at all.
That's consistent with a study by the American Dietetic Association, which found that 75 percent of office workers eat lunch at their desk at least two to three days a week.
Those poll findings were the inspiration for a movement The Energy Project launched last year. The concept couldn't be more straightforward - Take Back Your Lunch.
Far too many of us — managers and employees alike — have bought into the belief that the best way to keep up with demand is to be working all the time.
What if you set an example for the people you manage by taking back your own lunch - and by encouraging them to do the same?
At the most practical level, leaving the office for lunch is an opportunity to relax, let go of whatever stresses you've accumulated during the morning, and return to work feeling more energized, more focused and more engaged in the afternoon.
Taking back your lunch is the first step in taking back your life.
Can you commit to leaving the office for lunch at least once a week? Invite your whole office!
Reprinted from The Energy Project
Tony Schwartz is President and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus, and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance. Tony's most recent book, Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live, was published in May 2010 and became an immediate The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Follow him on Twitter @TonySchwartz.