Having a hardworking, dedicated team on your side is essential — but if your employees don’t take regular breaks, it could impact their mental and physical health and their work performance. A group that works all day without stopping may seem stellar on the surface. However, employees who skip lunch to meet deadlines experience negative consequences, and your company doesn’t prosper as well as it could.
Because work culture plays a huge role in whether employees feel comfortable taking breaks, you must start from the inside to help your employees thrive. Here’s a look at why lunch breaks are crucial and how you can encourage them in your workplace.
The Positive Impacts of Lunch Breaks
While taking small breaks throughout the day is crucial, lunch breaks are arguably even more important. This 30-minute or hour-long break gives your employees a chance to refuel their bodies so they can tackle the latter half of their day. Those who take lunch breaks experience numerous benefits that result in advantages for your business. Here’s how healthy eating for better productivity works:
Resets Focus & Relieves Stress
A lunch break allows employees to reset both their minds and bodies, meaning they’ll be coming back to their desks with clear minds and relaxed bodies — so long as they use their time wisely. The most vital part of a lunch break isn’t necessarily how long it lasts but what’s done during it. If your employees are using their lunch breaks to check their work email or troubleshoot problems, they won’t get the same benefits from the break as those who spend their time truly unwinding.
People who take lunch breaks to eat lunch, hydrate and go on a walk will be able to reset their focus before heading back to work. As a result, they can hone in on specific duties for longer periods of time without feeling distracted. Similarly, breaks alleviate stress in workers, so if you notice your employees are close to pulling out their hair by the end of the day, encourage them to take a daily lunch break. The outcome will be happier, focused employees who are interested in their work.
Creates Opportunity for Socialization
By having opportunities to socialize, employees can build bonds with one another, which often leads to stronger collaboration and teamwork in the office. During a lunch break, teams that work together all day every day have a chance to meet other workers, too. When employees engage with one another and the company as a whole, your business enjoys more success in the long run.
It’s key to make sure your employees have somewhere comfortable to chat while they take their breaks, like a dedicated break room or outdoor eating space. That way, employees who want to eat together feel more motivated to gather as a group rather than going off to find their own isolated spaces. By giving your team members gathering spaces, you encourage them to use them.
Encourages Mindful Eating
Promoting lunch breaks gives your team a chance to step away from their work. As a result, they have a chance to practice mindfulness while eating, rather than quickly eating their food at their desk so they don’t miss an email. Through mindful eating, your employees can enjoy happier minds and bodies.
To practice mindfulness, your employees simply have to be present while they take their break. This effort means eating in a location other than their office or cubicle so they can focus on eating. It’s also helpful for employees to keep phone use to a minimum, especially regarding work duties. The result is employees who experience less stress and fatigue, alongside a myriad of other physical benefits.
How to Promote Lunch Breaks at Work
How do you encourage and promote taking breaks at work? Looking internally at your workplace’s culture is a smart place to start. If your company has a culture of prioritizing work above all else to the point where breaks are discouraged, you’ll have to change that mindset over time. Here are a few tips to consider as you help your employees break those habits.
Take Breaks Yourself
One way to promote lunch breaks at work is to take them yourself. If your employees see you putting down your work to eat lunch, they won’t feel worried about being judged while they’re enjoying their own meal. By giving employees “permission” through your actions, you can help them take a guilt-free breather.
Have a Discussion
A good old-fashioned exchange of knowledge is another way to promote lunch breaks. Type out a list of the benefits of lunch breaks and hand them to your staff as a newsletter. It may be even more effective to have a department- or company-wide meeting to clarify new policies about taking lunch breaks. No matter how you disperse this information, making an effort to discuss it will show your employees you’re committed to creating a healthy work environment.
Give your employees a chance to control their break schedules. For example, someone who takes every one of their lunch breaks for two weeks straight receives some type of reward. The reward system you choose is up to you — maybe you’ll cater lunch on an upcoming Friday for the team who reaches their lunch break goals first.
Revive the Break Room
- Increase seating: Make sure there are enough seats for all employees to enjoy their lunch breaks together. While employees are free to take their lunch breaks wherever they please, you don’t want to discourage them from meeting one another. A few round tables with chairs are all you need.
- Create a color scheme: Choose a relaxing color scheme for your breakroom so your workers can have a restful break. For example, colors such as blue evoke feelings of security and comfort, while colors like orange evoke feelings of distress. Creating a relaxed space ensures your employees feel refreshed going into the rest of the day.
- Add appliances and storage: Keeping nutrition in mind at work is essential. If you do not have a cafeteria, by offering a fridge, microwave and coffee pot, you can help your employees eat better, as they’ll be able to bring their own food from home.
- Consider entertainment: Storing cards, board games and other activities in your break room will help your employees unwind even further while they take their breaks.
- Encourage positivity: Install a whiteboard in your break room so your employees can write each other positive messages. This idea is also useful for displaying important messages.
Why Having the Right Food Options Matters
If you give your employees enough time to put together a healthy meal during their lunch break, you’ll be improving their ability to work throughout the day. Be sure to give them the right tools to make their own meals, too. This approach also encourages employees to take quick snack breaks so they stay focused before and after their lunch break.
Note the relationship between nutrition and work performance below:
Increases Energy Levels
Encourage your employees to eat well-balanced lunches and snacks that consist of vegetables, fruits, fats, proteins and whole grains. The food we eat directly relates to how we feel, so team members who eat nutritiously are more likely to be productive and energized during work. Give your employees healthy snack options in the break room to help them feel great every day.
If you’re unsure where to begin when it comes to providing healthy food options, food vendors like American Food & Vending make things easier. We offer various grab-and-go food options to ensure you and your employees have access to deliciously nutritious foods. Therefore, you don’t have to think twice about stocking the fridge — and your employees reap the benefits of enjoying healthy food on their breaks.
Keeps the Brain Healthy
Let your employees know the health benefits of certain foods. If your employees’ brains are functioning at their full strength, their work performance will likely improve. These foods directly benefit the brain:
- Green vegetables: Green vegetables are rich in vitamin K, which has been linked to the slowing of mental decline.
- Fatty fish: Fatty fish contains unsaturated fat, which wards of diseases that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Berries: Have you ever wondered why berries are so vibrant in color? It’s because they have flavonoids that improve memory functioning.
- Nuts: Nuts are especially important for those who don’t eat meat, as they contain healthy fats and protein that may help improve memory functioning.
The Key to Helping Maximize Break Time
While breaks are important, you have to use them wisely to reap the benefits. Here are several ways your employees may want to use their lunch breaks to keep them feeling refreshed and focused heading into the afternoon work hours:
It’s no secret that physical activity has many benefits, such as increasing energy and sleep levels. It also has mental health benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, which is incredibly beneficial for work. It’s not always possible to exercise during lunch, but you should still recommend doing so to your employees. Even a walk around the block is helpful.
The point of a break is to relax, right? If you spot employees taking their laptops or work phones with them to lunch, send out a gentle reminder about how they might prefer to take their breaks. At the same time, ensure you save highly important work for different times when possible. There may be times when employees have to send a quick email or message during lunch — just ensure it doesn’t become a habit.
Let your employees know that it is okay for them to log out of their work emails and forget about whatever project they are working on so that they can truly focus on relaxing during their breaks. If your employees have a work-free and relaxing break, then they are more likely to come back to work refreshed and ready to be focused and creative.
Remember that encouraging socialization makes for a more successful company overall. Creating spaces for workers to connect with one another during lunch is a great way to help them build relationships, helping them and the business. If you spot teams only eating with each other, attempt to mix things up by catering lunch every so often so people have an excuse to connect.
Managing Excessive Break Times
Although there are many benefits of lunch breaks, you must create clear guidelines for your company’s lunch break policy. This way, you know what to expect from your team — and your employees know the boundaries you’ve set in place. As a result, everyone can enjoy their break without wondering if they’re crossing any lines.
In your policy, you should outline whether employees will be paid during their break. Additionally, you should designate how long a lunch break can take. For example, you may allow lunch breaks anytime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for 45 minutes. After you’ve established these rules, you should place them in a document everyone can see, whether that’s on the company intranet or on a bulletin board in the break room.
Feel free to test different possibilities to see what works best for your company. Everyone’s different, so giving your team a gap in the day to take their break is usually best. This way, they have the flexibility to plan lunch dates and otherwise map out their schedules accordingly.
What Happens When Employees Abuse the Policy?
Unfortunately, you may end up with a few people who don’t adhere to the lunch break guidelines you’ve established. Maybe someone is taking their break right before they leave for the day. It could be that someone is taking their lunch breaks for an hour rather than 30 minutes. Either way, you should know how to solve this issue as it arises.
Be sure to establish a pattern before you have a meeting with someone about their break habits. Sometimes, people get stuck in traffic after going to pick up their lunch — in other words, life happens, and you shouldn’t call people out for one-off incidents. If breaking the lunch break policy becomes a habit, that’s when you should schedule a meeting to discuss the problem.
If you notice multiple people not adhering to the guidelines, it may be worthwhile to review your policies. It might turn out that your employees would be better off taking lunch at a different time of day. Don’t hesitate to play around with your rules if it’s best for your team.
American Food & Vending Makes Lunch More Nutritious at Work
Let American Food & Vending help you provide fresh food and beverages for your business. As the fastest-growing hospitality partner in the industry, we’re here to offer sustainably sourced food and drink from eco-friendly suppliers. The options we provide are always on-trend, so your employees get to enjoy an amazing selection of fresh options during their lunch breaks. What’s not to love?
If you’re interested in improving your company’s productivity through the power of the lunch break, contact us to get started.