5 Reasons to Never Eat Lunch At Your Desk Again

Eating lunch at your desk is terrible for you, but almost all of us do it. Here are five very convincing reasons to actually take a lunch break.

David Drake has committed what many would consider unthinkable, if not impossible: the San Francisco software engineer has openly declared that he's never eating lunch at his desk again.

Why does such an everyday act feel so iconoclastic? Because, as Drake mentions, we eat lunch at our desks 80 percent of the time. Keyboard-munching is bad news for your coworkers—especially if your over-ripe tuna sandwich is stinking up the place. It's also terrible for your workday since it's scientifically proven that our brains need breaks.

Yet all of the advice to leave your computer was easy to dismiss. He'd laugh off the advice; after all, he liked to browse the Internet whilst lunching, he could get things done, and it would be a waste of time to step away. But then he did.

The results?

1. He was able to pay attention to his food.

Which leads to greater enjoyment and less snacking.

2. Being outside stimulated his thinking.

"Just spending time not inside the office is amazing in and of itself," he says. "Not only is it just nice to have a different environment for a little bit during the day, exposure to other people and their activities is quite stimulating and fun. I find inspiration from others and what they do so being around others completely outside my realm of normal activities in the office is a great bonus too."

3. He was more productive.

"The quality of the productivity I was getting during those 30 to 60 minutes was peanuts compared to the actual productivity I feel upon returning from lunch," he says. The psychology behind it: even if we think we're awesome at multitasking, we're actually terrible at it. Because quality work is deep work, and deep work is free of distraction. Sandwiches included.

4. He felt more balanced.

The reason that checking your work email on the weekend makes your whole week miserable is because of what organizational psychologists call segmentation: the feeling of being completely immersed in—or totally removed from—work.

Research shows that if you're constantly in worker bee mode, then you'll be more likely to get fatigued or burned out.

People who are burned out tend to not be so good at their jobs. So taking lunch away from your desk helps decrease your chance of burnout—and correspondingly increases how stoked you might be to return to your desk.

5. He felt better about his job and his life.

Feeling like you "have to" or "should" eat at your desk can make you feel worse about your job, even if it's not a requirement. Re-calibrating you situation is subtly productive, as allowing yourself to step away can make you feel better about your work and your life. Drake says:

Exercising my choice in the matter gave me a sense of freedom and entitlement that I wasn't ever getting from eating at my desk. ... This feeling has allowed me have greater sense of ownership over my time when I'm "at work." Summing it all up: I’m enjoying work more and I’m enjoying life more.
I can’t think of any good reason to go back to the way I was.

Hat tip: Random Drake

[Image: Flickr user Francois]

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  • Lorenzo Roberts

    Very good article. I will follow the advice from this article going forward.

  • weezel12

    I think I am going to start doin this from now on, it's super hard because my job is really fast paced and we're always on deadlines. I always have people breathing down my back and it always seems like I could get so much done while eating lunch at my desk... EVERYONE brings their lunch back to eat their desk and it makes me feel like I HAVE to be doing the same. I am also the youngest here and it makes me feel like If I take off for at least 30 minutes for lunch, people will wonder why I wasn't at my desk, but NO MORE!

  • Caroline Finney

    Also, the lunch hour is a great time to get to know co-workers better!

  • We actually instigated a company policy that you can't eat lunch at your desk (thats a software company with about 100 staff).

    Better engagement with coworkers as you'll often see accounts team talking to developers talking to support and marketing.

    It's great for the culture as well as delivering a bit of time out to the staff.