Why Eating Lunch At Your Desk Might Actually Make You Less Productive

Why Eating Lunch At Your Desk Might Actually Make You Less Productive

Most office workers have done it before: scarf down food at their desks because they’re too busy to stop working. Fast Company suggests, however, that this might be the most useful time in your day, and eating lunch at your desk could make you less productive overall.

Picture: Martijn van Exel/Flickr

According to author Bob Pozen, you should think of the function that lunch breaks serve and what you could gain from stepping away from your desk. For example:

You could eat alone — perhaps away from a screen. Pozen says that since you’ll sometimes have a very full day, eating alone can help you restore your personal resources. And don’t pull out your phone: An absence of stimulation encourages associative or integrative thought, spurring your creativity. As well, if you have an idea that you’re working on in your head, eating alone allows you to continue uninterrupted

Taking a short nap, a walk or gym break could also help you avoid the afternoon energy slump.

Some people think lunch breaks are overrated, but it’s worth considering whether the time you save by eating lunch at your desk actually costs you more in overall productivity. The good news is there are plenty of ways to use your lunch breaks effectively.

If You Think You’re Productive During Lunch, Think Again [Fast Company via Inc]


  • I’m more likely to be massively interrupted by people who think that because I’m eating and no longer ‘busy’, I’m instantly fair game to be asked in-depth technical questions.

    It’s just like ‘hey dude, eating a sandwiche. Can it for five minutes ok?’

  • If my boss saw me actually taking my entitled one hour lunch break today, it would be taken as indication that I do not have enough work to do.

    Tomorrow I would have to have go back to having lunch at my desk just so I could get the extra work I have now been given done.

    I lose all around. 🙁

  • I LEAVE the office at lunch. I don’t believe in much, but I do believe in an uninterrupted lunch break everyday. I work my butt off the rest of the time, but I take 45mins a day to myself.

    I read a book, catch up with a friend for lunch, do some shopping or watch a vid on my phone. Anything other than work.

    • If I can, I do. But I’d rather work an extra 30 minutes at lunch, and get out of the office at 5:30pm, than have to stay back to get my work finished.

      Alternatively, I could not surf Lifehacker for 30mins a day… but….

      • If you can’t get through your daily work within the set hours, then you’re doing it wrong. Hack your job to find time savings. Automate regular tasks if possible. Prioritise your work better. Review everything you do on a daily basis, and find a better way to do it. Create checklists to systematise tasks.

        I work in an intensive, high workload workplace. Been doing it for nearly 15 years. Trust me. There are ways and means of getting it all done without busting your arse.

        I often read Lifehacker on my phone during my lunch break, away from the office 🙂

  • Agree, even if it’s just half an hour – heck, even if it’s just 20 minutes – use the lunch break to get away from your desk, get away from your work and recharge, preferably leaving the office altogether. There are all sorts of personal benefits in doing this.

    But if you don’t want to do it for yourself, consider your colleagues and do it for them. Especially in crowded open-plan workspaces, leaving your desk for lunch means:
    • no food smells (no matter how delicious, these are distracting)
    • no eating noises (crunching, slurping, clinking of cutlery on plates… ugh)
    • no chatty lunchtime conversations (as itroll_2s observes, lunch eaters are a magnet for these)
    Your neighbours will be grateful.

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