Healthy Mind

Only a Third of Employees Disconnect During Work—But *Everyone* Needs a Real Midday Lunch Break

Allie Flinn

Sponsored by Nature Made.
Hustle culture has us working harder and longer—and it’s taking a toll on our health. But research shows that even short breaks during the day can spell big health benefits. So go ahead and give yourself a break (literally); Wellness Recess will provide you with the inspo you need to add more balance— and fun—to your day.

Whomever coined the phrase "stop and smell the roses" would be particularly horrified by the always-on culture that's pervasive in many workplaces. A recent report from Leanin.org and McKinsey & Company of 65,000 employees who identify as women found that only a third of those surveyed said they disconnected from work during the day—to smell the roses, or otherwise. The findings also reported that nearly half of respondents felt like they needed to work long hours to get ahead, and that more than a third felt like they needed to be available for work 24/7. This is obviously a huge and pervasive problem, and in order to prevent burnout, it's important to disconnect for so many reasons—including to take a midday lunch break.

Taking a midday lunch break (a real one—not the kind where you eat a sad desk salad while responding to emails) offers benefits that go beyond just nutrition. First off, multitasking is just "doing multiple things badly" (a neuroscientist's words, not mine). And "eating while doing something else—whether it’s working, watching television or using a smartphone—detracts from our ability to recognize internal cues for hunger and fullness, which can lead to overeating and less overall satisfaction from meals," Malina Malkani, RDN, creator of Solve Picky Eating, previously told Well+Good. Also, taking breaks actually helps improve your focus.

That all makes sense, but how does one go about committing to a midday lunch break in real life? It all starts by creating some boundaries, which—I know, I know—is much easier said than done. According to the survey, "many companies are leaving it to employees to establish their own boundaries when they work remotely or work flexible hours—and while employees should be empowered to carve out personal time, companies have a responsibility to put formal boundaries in place across the organization." So, while workers wait for companies to step up, it is indeed crucial that we create our own boundaries.

"Professionals should set boundaries, which give them the time and space to take care of themselves and better control how they choose to integrate their work from home and their life at home," Jen Fisher, chief well-being officer at accounting agency Deloitte, previously told Well+Good. "This includes outlining their 'nonnegotiable's—such as time for exercise and time for sleep—with their managers and teams to ensure they are protecting their health and well-being." It can also be beneficial to schedule your lunch break on your calendar.

Once you carve out the time and commit to taking a midday lunch break, it's time to figure out what to eat in order to maximize the time away from your grind for both your mind and mody. Having some easy recipes, like these five-minute meals, on deck can make lunchtime less daunting. Also, there are plenty of ways to easily turn leftovers into something new, like this nutrient-packed gluten-free pasta salad recipe and these recipes for leftover soup.

Meal delivery services, though sometimes costly, can also help cut down on prep and make your life way easier. There are a variety of options available, including meal kits, smoothie packs, and prepared meals. For a few examples, Daily Harvest offers everything from pre-portioned smoothies and flatbreads to grain bowls that just require heating up. Hungryroot is also a solid option if you are short on time and energy—it delivers proteins, grains, and pre-chopped veggies to your door, along with recipes that are super easy to follow. And Purple Carrot offers prepared vegan meals as well as meal kits. (Here are more details on healthy meal delivery services that are available nationwide.)

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