Reclaim your lunch break: 10 creative ways to make the most of your hour off

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Amy Swales
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How often have you eyed the clock at work, realised you're 20 minutes past lunchtime and made a mental note to grab something from the nearest shop just as soon as you've finished X, Y and Z? Then, after eventually managing to hunter-gather something meal-shaped on the desk in front of you, you continue with what you were doing, barely noticing you've even eaten it (if it wasn't for constantly maneuvering your keyboard around your salad so you could email at the same time)? Packed lunch bonus points: you don't even leave the building.

And it's easy for this mindset to trickle into the rest of our waking hours, as we stay late at the office and cradle our phones in bed while we check endless emails.

However, here at Stylist we've long supported the idea of carving out time for yourself during throughout both the working day and once you leave the office.

We all know we feel better actually leaving our work space, whether it's at home or in an office, for a proper lunch break. We all know everything will still be there when we get back in the morning, after leaving work for the day, and we're probably even confident that everything doesn't go up in flames as soon as we step outside for a breather. But do we do it? Rarely.

Happily, there's always time to break a bad habit. So what are you waiting for? Click through our gallery below for 10 brilliant ways to reclaim your work-life balance and carve out some time for yourself.

  • Watch a 10-minute tutorial


    Escaping the office to sit in a cafe isn’t just for caffeine fixes – there are plenty of short online video tutorials to teach you new skills. reader Valeria recommends “They have many interesting classes: calligraphy, illustration, watercolours, etc. It's perfect for short breaks because it's divided into short segments of 5-15 minutes.

    “I take pictures of my calligraphy progress and tag them #artsycoffeebreak. It's a good way to get out of the office and do something relaxing but productive while I feed my coffee addiction. Also, manual activities are nice when you stare at computer screens all day!”

  • Take in a tour


    Get a dose of culture and explore outside of your usual haunts in the city.

    The V&A offers free lunchtime lectures and 45-minute talks and tours, or you could catch a daily eye-opener tour (30-40 minutes long) at the British Museum.

  • Learn how to meditate


    Get centred before you dive back into the daily rush of work: Will Williams Meditation in Soho runs free introductions to Vedic meditation twice a week from 1pm. Who knows – it might become your new jam. Book in via the website below.

    54 Poland Street, London W1F 7NJ;

  • Find a calm retreat


    Taking back your lunch hour doesn’t have to be about filling it with activities – it can be as simple as making sure you actually escape your workplace.

    Finding a peaceful spot, especially a touch of greenery in a busy town or city, is key. London-based reader Natasha always heads to Middle Temple Gardens: “I spend every lunch hour with my book and a packed lunch. Doesn’t matter how busy I am at work, I always make time for that one hour a day to help me take a break and re-energise for the afternoon – it’s so important.”

    Middle Temple Hall, Middle Temple Lane, London EC4Y 9AT;

  • Do some museum sketching


    The Museum of Liverpool holds free monthly Landscape Lunchtimes, inviting visitors to sketch the views from the second-floor windows between 1pm and 2pm.

    Not in Liverpool? There are more than 50 national museums in the UK, all free to visit and all packed with interesting exhibits to sketch. Even if you don’t class yourself as creative, taking a moment to concentrate on the lines and shadows of an object in front of you – especially in the cool quiet of a museum – is a calming experience, so grab a pad and pencils and head out. Just don’t check your work emails on your phone.

  • Treat yourself


    Add a bit of pampering to your day and drop in for an express manicure or pedicure at one of Nails Inc’s UK salons.

    Each treatment includes a shape, file and polish in the colour of your choice, as well as cuticle care and a 45 second touch dry promise. A 15 minute manicure will cost you from £24 while a 20 minute pedicure will cost you from £30.

  • Catch a show


    Theatre buffs will delight in the St Bride Foundation's 'Lunchbox Theatre' initiative, in which 45 minute plays are performed at 1pm each day. Bring your lunch, grab a seat and forget about the office for your lunch hour.

  • Get moving


    Shake off the working day by squeezing some exercise into your daily routine. Grab a friend and go for a brisk walk part (or all) of the way home, or take your workout to the next level with a fitness class.

    UK-wide organisations such as Pure, Fitness First and Virgin Active all offer a range of classes and facilities.

  • Plug into a podcast


    Escape the daily grind by allowing a podcast to transport you into another realm. Catch up with your favourite radio show over coffee or tune everything out with some light comedy.

    Download your pick of our favourite podcasts here.

  • Learn a new language


    Why not use your spare time to expand your horizons? Learning a new language requires short bursts of activity, making it the perfect hobby to schedule around your lifestyle.

    We recommend Babbel, a service that offers on-the-go mobile courses you can dip in and out of whenever you're free.


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.