Better Ways to Use Your Lunch Break

Whether you have an hour or only 30 minutes, there’s always time during your lunch break to accomplish more than simply eating a meal. But, if you’re anything like most American workers, you stay at your desk to eat your lunch. In fact, research shows that only one in five people get away from their desk for the midday meal.

So, how can you take advantage of your lunch break? From taking a walk to catching up with friends, we’ve compiled a list of five better ways to use your lunch break:

Go for a walk.
If you’re familiar with the term ‘sitting disease,’ then you probably know about the harmful effects of sitting at your desk day in and day out. According to a 2008 Vanderbilt University study, the average American spends 7.7 hours per day in sedentary behaviors such as sitting. If your job requires you to sit for most of the day, use your lunch time to take a brisk walk around the office or outside. Not only will the activity stretch your legs, but it also will help clear your mind and improve your posture.

Connect with a long-distance friend or loved one.
When life gets busy, generally the first things to get neglected are long-distance relationships. If it’s been a while since you’ve caught up with your college roommate or called your grandma, then consider your lunch break the time to repair these relationships. By planning calls ahead of time and being aware of any time constraints, you can reconnect with someone you care about and show them you appreciate them. Don’t have access to a private space where you can make a phone call? Write a physical letter instead.

Take a free online course.
Want to expand your professional repertoire? Find online classes that cover topics relevant to your career. From edX classes to Khan Academy, the growing world of internet-based teaching programs makes it easier for busy professionals to gain valuable professional skills on their time.

Declutter your desk.
Clearing your workspace of unnecessary papers, post-it notes, pens and even food not only creates a cleaner area for you to work, but will also help you to focus on afternoon projects. Plus, an organized office will make a better impression on coworkers (according to survey by staffing firm Adecco, coworkers notice and judge office messiness). By taking only 15 minutes a week, you can toss trash, file paperwork and create a home for any remaining items.

Step away from your desk and enjoy your lunch.
Your emails will not mysteriously vanish if you take the time to enjoy lunch away from your desk. Yet it seems like many American workers have this mentality – a 2012 survey by Right Management found that 81% of employees are not taking a real lunch break. Although it may feel like you are accomplishing more when you choose to eat at your desk, your lack of movement can actually be detrimental for your creativity. According to Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the University of California who studies workplace psychology, “Taking a break from cognitively taxing work improves creative thinking.”

To perform your best throughout your workday, challenge yourself to step away from your desk for lunch and periodically throughout the day. By changing up your routine, you can not only find a more inspiring place to enjoy your food but also refresh your creativity.

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.