When the clock strikes 13:00
Post written by Paragon Interiors   October 18, 2016

You are sitting at your desk and the clock strikes 13:00. You become acutely aware of the cacophony of noise as people push their chairs away from their desks, pick up their lunch boxes and head off to the staff canteen area. At the last of the mass exodus, you sigh in relief to yourself – peace and quiet. Finally, a chance to work on the strategy that you need to complete! But first, you stack aside some errant papers that are lying on your desk, remove your P&J sandwich from your lunchbox and have a good few bites. You have mastered the art of multitasking – highlighter in your right hand and sandwich in the left.At 14:00, the hub bub in the open plan returns. You think to yourself, ‘could lunch really be over that quickly’? Despite working through your break – you realise that you have only gotten through a quarter of what you needed to. You should hopefully think – was it worth it to miss my break?

The answer is a resounding no! There is a science behind the lunch break clause in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act – after five hours of solid work, one is lawfully entitled to an hour’s break. And for a good reason!

According to Josh Davis (Vozza, 2015), the director of research at the NeuroLeadership Institute in North America, human brains are not like computers. We can’t maintain a certain level of productivity continuously. Instead, we have brief periods or ‘spurts’ of exceptionally creative output and performance that cannot be forced. And absolutely paramount to this is taking a sound break away from our work to reenergize and recoup. Research by the University of Illinois (2011) has found that taking a break from work can dramatically improve our ability to focus on completing a task and fuel our creativity.

This could entail reading a non-work related novel, taking a walk around the office complex, catching some Vitamin D, socializing and interacting with coworkers on non-work related matters, taking a quick nap in our cars, going for a walk around the local mall or grabbing a cappuccino at a coffee shop and watching the world go by. And of course, having a healthy meal to give our bodies the fuel we need to be productive!

With all this evidence stacked in favour of taking a significant break for lunch, it’s time to put our pens down and join the lunch time exodus!

Written by: Natalie Jones

Industrial Psychologist (HPCSA Reg No: PS 0128180)

References

The Scientific Case for Taking A Two-Hour Lunch Break. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3049122/hit-the-ground-running/the-scientific-case-for-taking-a-two-hour-lunch-break”.
Ariga, A. & Lleras, A. (2011). Brief and rare mental ‘breaks’ keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements Cognition, 118(3), pp. 439-443. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.007