I Want My Lunch Break Back

Taking a lunch break at work is important for so many reasons—and you lose those benefits when you work instead. Find out how to take back your lunch break.

What the heck happened to lunch breaks?

I remember at one former job, I took one every day. I drove home (about 3 miles from the office), watched my story (Port Charles … I still miss it), and fixed me a sammich. Also, I gave my cats some love.

That seems like a million years ago. Lately, my once-sacred lunch hour has become overrun with work meetings. People just assume it’s part of the work day, and I’m expected to labor through.

Sure, they order lunch in. But don’t they know that a working mom’s lunch hour is the one hour of the day that (supposedly) belongs to her and her alone? I can meet friends if I want, hit the gym for a workout (ha!), do a little shopping, or just veg out at my desk and catch up on my blogs.


The importance of lunch breaks

Besides my selfish ones, there are plenty of solid business reasons to keep your employees’ lunch breaks sacred. According to this Fast Company article, you can spend that hour in a number of ways to improve your afternoon productivity, including:

  1. Eating brain-powering foods such as fish, dark chocolate, whole grains, avocado and blueberries.
  2. Taking an actual mental break from work, which allows for more creativity later.
  3. Grabbing a power nap to improve your memory performance (and beat the post-lunch food coma).
  4. Exercising for the eleventy million reasons scientists say we should.
  5. Communing with nature to refresh your attention span and regain focus.
  6. Change up your environment to re-energize those creative juices.


The human factor

Lunch breaks also make the perfect time to connect socially with your coworkers (and by socially, I believe that means not talking about work), according to this Wall Street Journal article. I don’t have a lot of chances to do happy hours or other after-work socializing, so lunchtime is the best opportunity I have for regular friendship building. And as they say in the biz, you have to build your “social capital” to be successful, or something like that.

And what about happiness? Human beings are not machines. We all need a little down time in our work day, to remember that we are, indeed, human and not just thought-producers or paper-pushers. I know personally that when I have to go-go-go all day and don’t get that midday break, I ain’t happy. And you know what they say about what happens when Mama ain’t happy, right?


Fun ways to spend your lunch break

If you’ve gotten into the work-through-lunch rut and need a little inspiration, here are some ideas I found in Inc magazine, of all places:

  • Stretch your body.
  • Do some hula hooping. (I think this might go over in some office environments better than others.)
  • Go out to your car and belt your favorite tunes.
  • Network with new or existing connections.
  • Be crafty. Find something fun on Pinterest and make it your lunchtime creative project.
  • Hit the spa for a facial or mani-pedi. (This is one of my faves!)
  • Play games with your coworkers. I’ve seen people at my office play chess, Xbox and Cards Against Humanity.
  • Read a book. Preferably a non-digital one (if you spend the rest of your day in front of a computer).
  • Hang out with furry friends. Either at your house, a local shelter or if you’re extra lucky, with the resident dog or kitty in your office.

So please, coworkers. Give me my lunch break back. I need it. I really, really, really need it.

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Susan Wenner Jackson
Susan Wenner Jackson is a writer and mom who gets paid to obsess over Pinterest and blogs for Ahalogy, a Cincinnati-based startup. She lives in her hometown of West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, two young children, and their dog.
Susan Wenner Jackson
Susan Wenner Jackson
Susan Wenner Jackson
Susan Wenner Jackson

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  1. Amen! That annoys the hell out of me, too. Where I used to work, lunchtime was the highlight of the day. We’d go out as a big group or at least sit together in a conference room, eat our lunches, and shoot the shit. Now, it’s rare to have a non-working lunch.

    And when you’re not in a lunch meeting, somehow you still feel the pressure to stay working at your desk. At least, I feel like I do. I feel guilty for going out to eat, taking a walk, or running errands.

    Well, screw it. I’m taking back my lunch breaks!

  2. I’m with ya ladies! Let’s take back the lunch. If we just start refusing/declining meetings, there’s nothing they could do, right?

    I knew someone who did that. We rarely had lunch meetings after that.

  3. Sing it, sisters! And at my job, they don’t even bring in food when they schedule a meeting that falls during lunch time.

    I tend to stay at my desk for lunch (and catch up on my blogs – hello!), but unless I completely close the door people will (apologetically) interrupt, and even that doesn’t always stop them.

  4. Often, when someone proposes a lunch meeting, I tell them no. I’m hourly, so that time is UNPAID, and they expect us to brown bag it.

    Many of those higher up, will look down on you if you refuse to work through lunch, but I refuse to give up that time without even being compensated for it.

  5. It does seem more and more that people are starting to assume your working through lunch if you stay and eat at your desk. I often try to work on things for my volunteer group while I eat and find it nearly impossible.

  6. Amen, Sister!
    Take back the lunch!

  7. Oh man … I loved going to your place to watch Port Charles!

  8. It is so true, little by little lunch gets eaten up by work. Let’s take a stand ladies.
    Cara call me, we’ll walk or just eat!

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