62 percent of professionals say they typically eat lunch at their desks. This stat likely comes as no surprise to most professionals. In fact, I would argue it may be even higher in Silicon Valley where non-stop work at all hours is usually regarded as a point of pride.
What is leading to all these “desktop diners”? About a third of employees say they feel pressured by their managers to work through lunch. While it may seem like working through lunch equals greater productivity, creating a culture where employees take a true break mid-day can have positive effects on your business and your employees’ health.
Socializing at lunch may improve your employees’ productivity. Researchers at MIT found that employees who socialize are actually more productive than those who don’t. At Grokker, we all congregate in our cafe during the lunch hour to swap stories and connect with colleagues. New employees are told on their first day that the lunch hour is an important part of our culture, which helps them feel comfortable taking the time they need to reset. Consider instituting a lunch hour by team or blocking off “Friday Lunch” on your team’s calendars to help set the expectation.
Mindful eating could help your employees lose weight. When employees eat lunch while preoccupied with a spreadsheet, their brains aren’t able to properly process the amount of food they’re consuming. As a result, the hormone leptin is often late to signaling the brain that it's time to stop eating, so they take in more calories than they would otherwise. This explains why employees who eat alone at a desk ultimately ingest a greater number calories.
A mid-day break can promote a more active lifestyle. When Grokker CEO Lorna Borenstein started at a new company, her manager asked her on her first day if she’d like to join her for a fitness class during lunch. Lorna says, “I never left my gym clothes at home again! Her asking gave me permission to take that time to be active.” A survey commissioned by Ergotron found that nearly 70 percent of American workers hate sitting, yet 86 percent do it all day, every day. Giving employees time to go for a walk, attend a yoga class, or even take a short stretch break can reduce sitting and encourage activity, leading to a healthier workforce.
Are you eating alone at your desk? Here are 5 things employees can do on their lunch break instead.