You might not see the point in taking a lunch break now you’re working from home, but taking time away from your screen is actually more important than ever. Here are a few ways to make that hour a bit more interesting.
If the novelty of working from home has long worn off, you’re not alone. The initial excitement of being able to skip a commute and spend more time with our family has died down, and the idea that this may be our reality for some time is setting in.
But as more days pass and our attitude towards working from home changes, it’s important that we don’t let ourselves slip into unhealthy working practices. After all, when your work space is also your living space, it’s all too easy to let the divide between the two blur – we can sometimes feel the need to “prove” we’re working and doing a good job, whether that’s by working longer hours or making ourselves ultra-available over Slack or Whatsapp. We’re also, it seems, sacrificing our lunch breaks.
When we asked Stylist readers how they’d been managing to carve out lunch time while working from home, it was certainly a mixed bag. While many had managed to find routines based around kids, dog walks, and blocked out calendars, others found they were struggling to get away from their desks. “I feel like if I’m not in front of my laptop the world will come crushing in,” said one. “I’ve been in the same bad habit of eating at my computer while still working,” confessed another.
These experiences, it seems, are not uncommon. According to new research by Liberty Games, 41% of British people admit to being more likely to work through their lunch breaks now they’re working from home. Add that to the fact that, according to the survey, 38% are also working longer hours during lockdown, and 29% say that working from home makes them more stressed, and it’s clear that we’re facing a growing problem.
The likely cause? A psychological phenomenon called digital presenteeism. Now that we’re working from home, we don’t have the same benchmarks and feedback we get in the office, meaning many of us are dealing with more anxiety and stress over whether we’re doing “good enough” or working “hard enough”.
However, this impulse to overwork to “compensate” for not being in the office is one we need to try and resist. By working harder and longer and not giving ourselves sufficient time to rest and recover, we’re putting ourselves at risk of developing burnout – especially when you consider that we’re all dealing with higher stress levels at the moment as a result of the current situation.
As mental health advocate Jo Love previously told Stylist: “Overcompensating due to the fear of looking like you might be shirking or slacking is a common problem for those of us who WFH. And sure, blitzing the to-do list, the non-stop working and saying yes to everything your boss throws at you might make you feel awesome in the short term, but if you try and keep that up for more than a couple of days it can have a dark side.
“Working flat out is not sustainable and is more than likely to send you into a physical and emotional burnout spiral.”
I’m sure that most of us are already aware that we should be taking our lunch breaks and clocking off at the end of the working day, but it’s a lot easier said than done. So how can we break this unhealthy habit?
“What we eat can have a huge impact not only on our physical health, but our mental health, and for that reason taking a lunch break is so important, explains Jessie Pavelka, internationally recognised health and wellness expert and co-founder of Pavelka Wellness.
“Just because you aren’t in ‘the office’, employers (and you!) shouldn’t just sit back and let an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude materialise. For me, leaders and employers are in a great position to influence taking control, but we can all play a role in making sure we break unhealthy habits and take that lunch break.
“Perhaps the ultimate piece of advice I’d offer is to make sure healthy eating habits become a conversation in the ‘workplace’. That doesn’t mean as leaders, employers and remote workers we need to be thinking too granular as to what we’re eating, but there does have to be a focus on supporting each other.
“It’s about having a plan essentially, and we all have the ability to pioneer what exactly that is and what it looks like. It can start as small as you like – perhaps as simple as taking the time to discuss how you eat through the day to bring focus – but we all have the power to step up and champion growth. I’d encourage everyone to think about a wellness plan that takes care of the simple questions – are you feeling satisfied, eating healthily etc? – but also focuses on connection, to make sure the lunch break remains a regular fixture in the working day, keeping the eat conversation going.”
Alongside making healthy eating habits such as taking a lunch break part of your routine, it’s also a good idea to make your lunch break a fun, engaging time to take your mind off work and give you some headspace. Below, we’ve put together some fun, easy ways to make sure your lunch is the relaxing break you deserve.
Get creative in the kitchen
Making time to eat and fuel your body for the rest of the day is obviously the main purpose of a lunch break, so why not make the most of being at home? Having your kitchen available to you makes it super easy to cook filling dishes which are full of flavour – and experimenting with new recipes and ingredients is a fun way to relax.
Set some time aside in your breaks to give your mental health the TLC it deserves by practicing some self-care. This can be anything that makes you feel better – if you’re feeling stressed, for example, doing a quick mindfulness meditation or even taking a midday bath could be an option.
For more easy self-care ideas, you can check out our guide here.
Working from home means spending more time on our screens than ever before, so take a break from technology for an hour and turn your lunch break into a crafting session.
If you’re looking for some guidance, there’s plenty of fantastic craft kits to get you started. If not, pick up a pencil or paintbrush and create whatever your heart desires.
Indulge in TV
The wonderful thing about working from home is being able to use our lunchbreaks to fully relax, so why not tune into one of your favourite shows for a bit? Forget the days when you sat in a crowded café trying to watch Netflix on your phone – make full use of your TV or laptop screen and get bingeing.
You can check out our guide to the shows with episodes that you can fit into your lunch break here.
As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.
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