Lunch With A Side of Mindfulness

By Amandeep Kang (Harmless Clinical Support Worker)

A routine I think we all engage in is ‘working through our lunch’, where we spend our allocated lunch break combining eating with work-related tasks. This is often as simple as reading emails while eating your delicious meal deal sandwich.

Studies show that carrying out work-related tasks during your lunch break can lead to an increase in fatigue and diminished work performance and enthusiasm (Lyubykh et al, 2022). This is important because it reduces the willingness and energy to work for prolonged periods of time or maintain a work / life balance. In turn, this can lead to ego depletion. Freiss et al (2019) describes ego depletion as something that was originally thought to be in good shape but which has now become weak. This can be applied to the workplace, where we approach our work with a peak energy that can diminish by midday. Therefore, when we have our lunch or a coffee break, we should take this time to step away from the screen and wind down. 

In line with the work we all do here at Harmless, sustaining positive morale and cognitive ability is key to how we carry out our daily work, such as administrative tasks or delivering training and sessions with clients.

Working at the Leicester office, we really don’t take advantage of the shops, takeaways and scenic footpaths that are right on our doorstep. Therefore, I tried to step away from my desk during my lunch break and find different ways to spend the time to make sure I decompress. This week, for example:

• I sat down at the 200 degrees coffee shop, a place I visited frequently when I was at university as I found it a more calming environment in which to study than the busy library. I spent my lunch chatting to the staff, sipping on a chai latte and watching my favourite show, Greys Anatomy! 

• I went for a walk around East Leake village with Jess and grabbed a cappuccino from Bryer’s. We definitely did not take this time to talk about work related topics, but instead chatted about binge-watching Harry Potter while also discovering that we have opposing views on the subject of iced coffee.

• I went for a stroll along the New Walk footpath and sat down on the bench to read my cheesy Colleen Hoover book. I did feel like I was getting funny looks from strangers but I’ve been able to read a majority of my book, which I sometimes don’t get enough time for outside of work.

After intentionally avoiding working through my lunch, it allowed me to step outside in the spring sunshine, talk to strangers about their day, and enjoy hobbies I frequently don’t have time for when I get home. As a result, I found that instead of my day becoming one long string of work tasks, I was able to organise and manage my time far more effectively.

For anyone working in an environment similar to the one we experience at Harmless, it is important to step away from your desk during your lunch break. So don’t just heat up your food and head back to the computer or turn to a colleague and start talking shop — remember to unwind and recharge for the rest of your working day.