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.
Which leads to greater enjoyment and less snacking.
"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."
"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.
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.
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.
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