The number of workers who actually take lunch breaks is down, and so is productivity. Getting away from the office for lunch — even for a short time — can boost creativity and brighten your mood.
More and more Americans are making a habit of staying at their desk to eat lunch during the workweek. Mental Floss explains how only one in five workers take a break to eat their midday meal away from their workspace — which is having a negative effect on productivity. Ironically, research shows that the longer you stay on the job, the more important it becomes to get up and move outside the office because that’s when you will most likely experience a creative thought, according to NPR.
To help you break free, here are 7 ideas for places to eat your lunch besides your desk.
1. Your Co-Worker’s Desk
It may sound silly, but even getting up and walking to someone else’s desk is more beneficial than staying put. Shape explains how, not only do you wind up eating more when you stay in your own office space, you also miss out on any socialization and the mental benefits that go along with it. Research has shown that interacting with others can have similar benefits as exercise. If you work in a giant office and your coworker is all the way across the room, all the better for the added steps.
2. The Office Lunch Room
Once again, it is important to get up and move, even if not very far. People who eat at their desks are more likely to eat fattening foods all day, rather than those who take a lunch break. So stand up out of your chair and go to talk to your co-workers in the lunchroom, if you have one. This can help you feel refreshed and catch up on any office news you may have missed.
3. Your Car
Although not the most ideal place, taking the extra steps to leave your office and get to your car can provide you with enough of a break to reset your mind. Even better, have a friend or coworker join you, roll down the windows, and listen to some music. Pulling yourself away from the screen is not only important for your mental health but your eyes too. Too much time in front of a computer can really put a strain on your peepers.
4. A Favorite Restaurant
Try to form a community around your lunch breaks, adding the ever-important social element to the meals. Organize a trip to a favorite restaurant with three or four co-workers, and get your mind and body in an entirely new environment. If possible, walk there to add movement to your day.
5. Food Trucks/Carts
Food trucks and carts are becoming a popular substitute for the traditional restaurant in just about every major city. Often, they operate in pods with shared tables in place. This is a great way to get outside, meet new folks, or simply do some people-watching while you enjoy some fast, delicious, independent food.
6. The Park
Quite possibly the best option is the park, or anywhere close to nature. Researchers have found that changing your scenery, particularly to more naturalistic settings, most dramatically increases innovation and creativity. Moreover, those who walk through parks or places with lots of vegetation are less likely to feel stressed or ruminate on problems at the workplace or even at home. Being exposed to sunshine, even briefly, releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and mood.
7. Take a Walk
You don’t even have to eat away from your desk, as you take a break for a walk. Studies have found that workers who take regular breaks are actually more productive than those who do not, according to themuse, and even short walks around the block or through the building have positive health benefits (not least of which is the production of endorphins). Adding plants to your desk can also help boost your mood if you really can’t get out of the office.
In addition to taking care of yourself at work, healthy habits also means having access to a good doctor. If you are not covered or underinsured, use SingleCare for affordable treatment options. Members pay only for the treatments they need, at the same negotiated prices paid by insurance companies. So walk on over to your doctor and save an average of 48% on general medical care.
(Main image credit: Mike Watson Images/Thinkstock)