Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lunch Breaks Are Critical

I hear constantly about executives who call meetings at the last minute during lunch.  Their people end up not eating or chomping a sandwich on the fly.  Aside from being bad for health, it actually impacts negatively on productivity.

Companies often call lunchtime meetings in order to jam more work into the day. They wrongly think that this increases productivity but it actually may work against them.  Ad agencies, PR firms and other service businesses are infamous for doing this.

Most people eat some kind of breakfast. We all know that they say that breakfast is the most important meal.  But after working four or five hours, our bodies need to refuel. Lunch may be almost as important.  The day takes its toll on your body and everyone needs time to recuperate and recover.  In fact, a short lunch break sets everyone up for a productive and creative afternoon. 

I believe in meditation and I take "quiet" breaks a couple of times a day, just for three to five minutes to relax, close my eyes and do nothing.  I have been doing this since I was in my early twenties.  It relaxes me, and sets me up to get work done.

Lunch is even better. They say that taking even a short, twenty minute lunch, away from phones, computers and business makes people more relaxed and able to face work.  That is another reason I don’t like open plan offices – you can’t just get away from everyone. Having a few minutes of privacy inevitably makes people more relaxed and able to get work done efficiently.

When I am really busy, I sometimes leave the office and walk around the block, just to clear my head.  I much prefer to go to a take-out joint and bring back lunch if I have to – the couple of minutes out and getting a bite to eat to bring back actually rejuvenates me; doing that is better than having it delivered.  And better yet is a half an hour out with a friend, with my mind completely off work.

If you Google lunch breaks you will find dozens of articles and scholarly works that talk about how a lunch break can set you up for a productive afternoon.  I no longer work in a big office, but I always resented bosses who walked into my office at 12:05 to tell me about a meeting they just scheduled which will last about two hours.  I always felt lunch time was my time, my time to clear my head and take a breath. (Now, I regularly interview during lunch time, but I take a break either before or after.)

And those Googled articles all say the same thing – there is a considerable body of evidence that executives who take a real break are far more productive and creative then those who work without a break. It is why at conferences and big meetings there is always a lunchtime scheduled so that people can stretch and let their brains relax.  It is actually just common sense.

When one is stressed and over wrought with emergencies and projects, it is beneficial to walk away from these problems for a brief period.  Just like most people have their best ideas in the shower or as they are falling asleep, having a break facilitates creativity and production. Taking a break allows fresh thoughts to emerge.

It is tempting to try to work through lunch in order to get more work in during the day, but it may actually work against you. 

Just a thought....


  1. I had a boss at Grey who loved lunchtime meetings. But he also had a huge appetite so he would always order in lunch for those meetings. That's always been my philosophy: if you're taking away my lunch break, you need to feed me.

    1. @Anon: Funny. As I was writing this, that thought crossed my mind. I think it is fair that if someone wants to have a lunch time meeting, they should feed the attendees,

  2. Agree on the working lunch rule! I would also suggest that agencies need to implement the old ad rule that if you work past 7-8 PM the agency buys dinner.

    In fact, I may add a few of these thoughts to my recent post here on how agencies used to be great at creating stars! They would work hard to build talent from within... Paul, care to offer any thoughts?


    Keep up the great work!


  3. Hey Paul, I posted a few thoughts here a couple of weeks ago, and it never showed up... just wondering if it was nixed or just never made it past a spam filter?



    1. HI Bob: I only nix bad language and unsolicited solicitations and ads (believe it or not, I get a lot). Sometimes Blogger screens thinking something is spam. Please re-submit and send me a direct cc.


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