Why Taking a Lunch Break Is Essential When Working From Home


When it comes to the benefits of remote work, everyone can agree on some of the most obvious benefits: workday flexibility, a lack of commute, and of course, the ability to work in your pajamas. But for all the pros, there are definite challenges to working from home that come with the territory, and a prime one is getting an eating schedule in place and not just falling victim to a mindless all day snack-fest! And though it might feel tempting to power through lunch if you’re having a particularly productive morning, having a designated lunch break is going to be better for you in the long run for a ton of different reasons, including the following.

1.You’ll Have More Energy at the End-of-the Day

According to a study by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, relaxing lunch break activities in particular lowered levels of everyday workday fatigue reported by co-workers.

In the study, relaxing lunch break activities were defined as activities that were low effort and low activation–or didn’t require a lot of effort to get the activity started–and required little social demands of the employees. So in short, a lunch break across town in a new place with a particularly chatty coworker or a complex at-home recipe for bouillabaisse using ingredients you’ve never touched before would probably not qualify as a relaxing lunch break activity. 

The study found that engaging in work-related activities during a lunch break lead to more end-of-day fatigue than for those who engaged in relaxing activities during the lunch break. So, take that 60 minute break to enjoy a delicious, easy-to-prep meal and pull up Spotify and put a chill vibes playlist on. You’ll feel so much better at the end of the day!  

2. You’ll Be Able to Create a Sense of Routine 

Working a 9-5 in an office automatically builds routine into your day. You’ll likely wake up at the same time, eat breakfast at the same time, and leave your home at the same time every single day for work. With remote work, things are inherently more unstructured which can be both amazing and terrible. Work can easily bleed into personal and family time and seem to touch every facet of your life if you’re not careful. Having a few designated times everyday with your inbox and Slack on “snooze” will help you break up the monotony of a work day at home and help you find a new balance, and lunch is a great time to do it. 

Predictable, repetitive routines can help you feel more in control of your life and reduce anxiety and streamline your day. According to Dr. Ramon Solhkhah in the Department of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, routines can be key to maintaining mental health and dealing with anxiety during stressful times. Routines can help by creating structure, giving you a sense of accomplishment, and helping you feel more energetic and put-together. Building in a lunch break is a small step forward that can ultimately lead you to building in more healthy habits that will make you feel like you’ve got the whole remote work thing down to a tee!  

3. You Can Even Catch Some Fresh Air In Nature

Remote work can often mean you feel confined to your home office day-in, day-out. Lunch breaks can be the perfect time to incorporate a daily walk out in your neighborhood. According to public health researchers, being in nature or even viewing scenes of nature can reduce anger, fear, stress. It can also increase pleasant feelings, which leads to tangible physical wellbeing effects such as reduced blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormone production. Spending time in nature can even reduce mortality. Building in that daily time at lunch for even a 15 minute walk to hear the birds sing and catch a few rays of sunshine is the perfect way to inject a positive habit into your daily routine and break up the stress of a workday.  

4. Your Brain Will be Charged For Bigger Decisions Later

Imagine an all-day workplace meeting designed to hammer out and make decisions on some of the biggest and most emotional challenges your workplace faces and haven’t been able to agree upon so far so far. How should we structure our healthcare plan? Which employees’ hours should we cut to make next quarter’s budget? What do we forecast to be the revenue of the company 18 months from now, and what investments should we make in order to meet those revenue projections? The likelihood you’ll be able to make great, well-informed decisions by the end of the meeting seems low. This phenomena is called decision fatigue, a term that refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by individuals after long sessions of decision making. 

And while thankfully most of our workdays don’t look like this imagined scenario, we can all face the danger of decision fatigue on a day-to-day level. In fact, a research team at Columbia University examined court rulings from a parole board judge, who was responsible for determining whether individuals would be released from prison on parole. The research team examined over 1,000 cases over a 10 month period and found that the odds for a favorable ruling were influenced by one major factor: time of day. The odds of a favorable ruling were much higher early in the morning and right after a lunch break when the judges were in a better mood and better fed.

What does this data mean for you? Even if you’re in a workplace where your decision might be less high stakes than this particular judge’s, it would still greatly benefit you to take at least one daily scheduled mid-day break to recharge the batteries and improve your cognitive functioning so that you’re making clear, logical workplace decisions all day long. 

5. You’ll Be Much More Productive When You Get Back to Work

Working overtime, skipping breaks, and always saying “yes” to projects is a common attitude for ambitious American workers in a variety of environments, but remote employees may feel even more pressure to overperform to compensate for the lack of in-person face-time with their coworkers in the office. But regular breaks, like a daily scheduled lunch break, can increase productivity by reducing chronic stress. Workers who undergo chronic stress are at risk of burnout, leading to less employee engagement and loss of worker productivity. A defined lunch break can also help remote workers make more mindful and nutritious eating decisions, instead of just reaching for whatever you see first in the pantry which will help prevent both that typical mid-afternoon slump and long-term negative health effects. 

So, What Are Your Lunch Break Solutions?

By now it should be clear that there’s a long list of benefits to having a scheduled lunch break, from better mental health to better productivity to better long-term health outcomes. So the question is, what are your food options to make the most of your lunch break? Here’s a couple delicious solutions below! 

1. Try a Meal Delivery Service Kit

As mentioned earlier, lunch breaks should be more relaxing in order for you to reap the best benefits. And luckily for us, there are now countless meal delivery services that can make cooking at home a simple step process. Try out HelloFresh, which helps make for healthier eating in 30 minutes or less without the trip to the grocery store. Daily Harvest is even simpler, with fruit and vegetable based smoothies, oat bowls, and grain bowls that are ready in just minutes. Or there’s also Sun Basket which a focus on non-GMO and organic meals that you can whip up in a few minutes, is super customizable for even the strictest of diets (hello, Paleo!), and their Pad Thai sauce found in a lot of recipes is super incredible. 

2. Master a Few Quick and Easy, 5 Ingredient Recipes

Cooking something elaborate is probably not the best idea in the middle of a work day, but mastering a few easy-to-make recipes that you can fit right into a lunch break will make your day all the better. A simple Greek salad or amped up avocado toast with a sunny side up egg all take less than 30 minutes and will give you a much needed power boost to keep the workflow going. And the above simple chicken piccata dish takes 20 minutes flat but is extra delicious! You can even make extra portions to enjoy multiple days during the week to further simplify your schedule. And if you forgot one key ingredient last time you hit the grocery store, just like we’re all apt to do, you can sign up for GoPuff to get anything you missed delivered straight to your door. 

3. Treat Yourself With Takeout or Delivery of a Great Meal

Eating out too often can be negative for your long-term health as it can be hard to control the amounts of fat, sugar, and other additives that are in restaurant meals, but a mid-day treat from UberEats can streamline your day and make it easier. Order a macro-filled grain bowl, a burrito bowl sans sour cream, or a few rolls of sushi for your midday break and it’ll feel like you’re truly unplugging with something special but still nutritious. Want to go the extra mile? Plate your meal on some actual dinner plates and enjoy it out on your patio if you have one, or at the very least, away from your computer and workstation.