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How did you eat your lunch today? Did you take a stroll to a nearby park? Eat in a subsidised staff canteen? Fix up a sandwich in your own kitchen? Or did you simply take five minutes and eat a sandwich at your desk? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone. More and more people are reportedly choosing to forego their lunch hour and instead just eating lunch at their desk.
This was the topic in question covered by the BBC magazine this morning, with over a 100 commenters joining in the discussion. The writer of the article, a former trader, was arguing in favour of a compulsory lunch hour, enforced to ensure that a quick sandwich at the desk becomes a thing of the past.
There is little doubt that technology has had a massive impact on every aspect of our daily lives, and mealtimes are no exception. Most if not of all of us will be guilty of keeping our smartphones within easy reach during dinner, even when dinner takes place in a nice restaurant. It’s just become second nature.
Like most habits, we secretly know that this is to our detriment. Of course we know it is healthier to take an hour’s break from the office to sit down and eat a proper lunch. It’s better for the health of our mind and our body, and will make us happier and more productive workers in the future. But in our increasingly 24 hour world, emails keep coming, whether it’s lunchtime or not. When you’re in the middle of an important exchange, it’s just too easy to stay right where you are, staring at your computer screen with sandwich in hand, rather than take a break.
This isn’t to say that mandatory lunch breaks are the answer. Making anything mandatory is always problematic, and human nature suggests that nothing will make a person want to take a 15 minute lunch more than being told they can’t. Perhaps instead more should be done to encourage a healthier lifestyle in general; focusing simply on the length of a lunch break (or lack thereof) misses the bigger issue: our lives are becoming too sedentary. Many of us are becoming tied to our desks for more than just lunch. Health experts recommend taking a five minute break from your computer every hour – meaning to physically stand up and walk away from your desk. How many times did you do that today?
The national focus, at least here in the UK, seems to be moving more and more towards increased productivity and work-based achievement. This would be fine were it not for the fact that it may well be to the detriment of our general health. If the most important thing is productivity, an hour’s lunch break – once considered an essential part of the working day – can start to seem like a distraction rather than a necessity in itself.
Productivity is no doubt very important, but keeping active and healthy – in mind and body – should always come first.