How do your employees spend their lunch breaks? At their desks clogging up keyboards with crumbs, catching up on the headlines, emails and working? Sound familiar? It’s not really what a lunch “break” is supposed to be.
Back in the day when the Internet, let alone computers, didn’t exist or at least sit on everyone’s desks it was very common for people to go home for their lunch. Yikes, imagine taking the time to go home, eat a meal, maybe catch up on a few things in the house, chat to anyone else who was home for lunch and then go back to work feeling like you’ve had a real break ready to tackle the afternoon shift.
And if it wasn’t home you were going to it was certainly to a canteen, café or quite possibly the pub for an hour. Nowadays employees might still get out, but it is most likely to pick up a takeaway, run errands and tick things off their never-ending to-do lists. Doesn’t sound like much of a “break”!
Research by Subway has shown that 58% of Ireland’s population is taking less than 30 minutes for lunch during the working day. Shockingly, only 15% of workers here are taking the full hour for their lunch break.
So, what can employers do to help their employees take a real break and come back to their desks feeling energised, productive and motivated for the afternoon, which quite possibly will stretch into the evening?
Get them to leave their desks!
“No-eating” at the Desk Policy
Have a “no-eat” at the desk policy, providing of course you have an alternative space for employees to go and eat. This will promote social engagement and interaction with colleagues which turn will promote the sharing of information, ideas and issues that otherwise are not nurtured or vocalised. Often the best ideas come from a “water cooler” chat rather than the boardroom.
Lunch Byte Sessions
A great way to get employees engaging and away from their work stations is to provide Lunch Byte Sessions. Run a series of one-hour modules on self-development topics such as How to be successful, Personal Branding, Body Language or Wellbeing. Or invite the employees themselves to do a presentation on a day in the life of Me. Often referred to as Brown Bag lunches, the employer provides the food, which is an added incentive to attend.
Encourage your employees to get some fresh air, even if it is a ten-minute trot around the block. Unplugging for those ten minutes and having head space alone or a chat with a colleague along with that burst of energy is a great stress-buster. Incentivise them to clock up “foot miles” which can be used to redeem a voucher, a free lunch or even towards time off.
Have you a quiet space where your employees can take a power nap? We all know tired people can be grumpy, irritable and unproductive! It is proven that a quick 15-20-minute nap during the day can have huge benefits. It will increase concentration and memory performance, making employees more productive, reducing stress levels and improving moods. In many countries such as Spain, Italy, Japan and China afternoon naps are a normal part of the daily culture.
We are recognising and understanding that the fast pace of our 24/7 always on lives can take its toll on our wellbeing. Employers have a duty of care to mind their employees. It’s a win-win initiative, as happy, engaged, awake employees are far more productive and motivated.
It’s not called a Lunch “Break” for no reason!
Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager