Return of the lunch break
Sometimes the only way to get through the week, especially with the demands of clients, employees and deadlines, is to skip your lunch break, work late or check emails over the weekend. The problem is it happens more than you realise and before you know it your living a workaholic lifestyle which can be both unhealthy and unproductive.
But where exactly do you draw the line?
While putting in the extra hours might pay off initially, your lunch break is a valuable commodity which you can use for more than a sandwich and read of the paper.
Those of you how know me, will be aware of my liking for the odd ‘Business Lunch’. It may be a leftover of a business age gone by but it still has value in our modern working world. In March 2011, the Singapore Stock Exchange scrapped its longstanding lunch break, a move quickly followed in Hong Kong in 2012. A move originally designed to boost competitiveness with its Asia-Pacific peers, but critics said trading volume dried up during what were normal lunch hours anyway. Five years on it is now clear that “a midday break will not adversely affect trading volumes in any significant way” SGX said and that “shorter trading hours may in fact result in higher trading velocity”.
This is a lesson both employers and employees can learn from. Taking a break not only allows us time to eat but a much-needed break from our screens. It’s very difficult to be productive if we don’t stop working from eight ‘til five. Our brains are just not designed that way.
Along with aiding productivity your lunch break is an opportunity, to network with both colleagues and clients. For business owners, it is the prime time to build relationships with clients and gain a greater understanding of their needs in a more relaxed setting. Only last week I met with a client for lunch at a local favourite, Villa D’ Este. Like us they pride themselves on delivering excellent service, treating us like a valued friend. While you may still be working, your allowing yourself the opportunity to refresh and engage with work differently.
For employees, a lunch break can be the time in your day to learn a new skill or language that you never have the time for, build new friendships with colleagues, take a walk and return to the office energised for the rest of the day.
How can you make the time for your lunch break?
Time is one of your most important resources and time management is key. We’re paid for our time, so use it wisely. This could mean declining non-essential meetings or blocking time in your calendar to accomplish a task.
With time, there’s also opportunity cost to keep in mind; if you’re spending it on a less urgent project, you can’t spend it on one that could be more impactful.
And while a quick procrastination break every now and then never hurt anyone, set end goals to keep your productivity in check.
Learning how to delegate is important, by doing so you will have more time if you know how to delegate tasks as appropriate.
To start, know what requires your expertise and what doesn’t. Understand both your strengths and those of your team and make good use of them.
Be honest about what you can take on. If you feel overwhelmed, be willing to say no or ask for help.
Business fluctuates, and there will be times when you must stay late, work a Saturday or return an email in the wee hours. But don’t make it a habit or the workaholic lifestyle will take hold once again.
Remember why you’re working in the first place: to support yourself or your family, and to feel fulfilled, empowered or professionally satisfied.
Create clear boundaries and set goals for want you want to achieve in your breaks.