Hate Happiness? Then Keep Eating Lunch At Your Desk

By not taking lunch away from the office, you can ruin your productivity, your day, and your health. Now, where are we going to eat?


When we talk about productivity, we’re really talking about working with our workday in a such a way that we can continually be awesome. There are many roads to the awesome workday: the boulevard of the insanely early morning, the alley of the ultra-productive night, the rest stop of the 3 p.m. nap.


But one thoroughfare to the awesome workday is getting thoroughly overlooked: lunch.

Two-thirds of us eat lunch at our desks–and it’s getting a little sad. This wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t spend our energy all morning; unfortunately, we do. And the less energy we have, the worse decisions we make, the less productive we become, and the more annoying we are to be around.

So if we want to do better work throughout the day, we need to unplug at some point during the day. Like midway through. With a midday meal. But take note: as University of Tennessee at Chattanooga organizational psychologist Chris Cunningham tells the Wall Street Journal, where, how, and who you eat with is as important as what you eat.

Step away from the keyboard.

“Taking a lunch break away from the desk lets people separate themselves from the source of that (energy) drain,” Cunningham says. “And that offers the opportunity to build back some of those resources in the middle of the day–rather than just at the end when work is over.”


Resource replenishment is specific to the person, he says. You might need 10 minutes to recharge, your colleague might need an hour. The task for us, then, is to tinker with our lunches in the way we tinker with an idea: If we experiment with the way we lunch, we can arrive at the meal that best feeds us.

The factors that are out to lunch

Lunch can energize us, Cunningham says, but only, again, if we step away from the screen. Like by going for a walk–at least down the hall. For the record, the insanely prolific (and possibly just insane) philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would take a two-hour walk before lunch every day, writing ideas in his notebook when they came. So we can at least go for a walk down the hall.

And as we’ve learned elsewhere, switching focus reenergizes us. Cunningham says to do something uplifting, rather than click through online shopping, stumble through your email, or run to the bank.

So how else can we make lunch an energy asset? First, by appreciating the majesty of the midday meal, as this eagle does.


Then by doing these things.

Hanging out in nature: A walk through the park will unstuck your flow of ideas and make you feel way better. Japanese doctors are now prescribing walks through the woods to help with mental health. And they have an awesome word for it: shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.”

Hanging out with a friend: At-work BFFs make you more productive. Having lunch together will make you guys “BFF-er.”

Hanging out with your food: “It’s certainly not advised to have a Thanksgiving feast for lunch,” Cunningham tells the Journal. “Then again, you should give yourself a chance to be fascinated with the world around you—and enjoying your food can do that.”

How do you lunch more excellently? Tell us in the comments please.


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.