“If you’re one of the many NCA employees who haven’t travelled to the office much since March 2020, the novelty of working from home has probably faded. Unstructured days, overtime and limited real-life contact with colleagues have cancelled out some of those benefits. As for proper lunch breaks, you’ve probably forgotten what they are! A recent survey found that during lockdown, most employees worked longer hours at home than in the office and over a third struggled to separate work and home-life. Another poll revealed that 80% of those who had lunch ate it while they worked, and two thirds skipped it altogether! These figures highlight how easy it is to stay at your ‘chosen desk’ all day; but taking a break and reclaiming your lunch hour benefits productivity as well as physical and mental wellbeing, as expert and psychologist Dr Gregory Warwick of Quest Psychology Services explained. “People often believe that if they press on, they’ll get more done,” said Dr Warwick, “yet taking a break not only helps regulate your stress levels but also recharges you so that you can fully attack the next project. “It’s tempting to prove your dedication by working longer hours but this can have the opposite effect. Employers can begin to expect 110%, which in turn compounds your stress as demands increase.” Under Cover has joined Dr Warwick in putting together a five step plan to make 2021 the year we can all work and relax flexibly and enjoy an altogether healthier, happier working day.
Step 1 – Establish Routine
Remember work-life balance? It used to mean leaving the office and switching off but now it’s harder to separate professional and personal life. You need to give yourself a structure. Make lists of things you need to accomplish and scheduling in a lunch hour is a vital part of this process because at home, we don’t have the same visual clues – colleagues grabbing coats and heading out telling us its time to take a break.
Step 2 – Step 2 Swap Your Location To Eat
Moving away from your work area for lunch isn’t just about a change of scene, it has dietary benefits too Eating lunch at your desk means= you don’t focus on what you’re eating and likely to consume more calories. Eating something wholesome rather than sugary snacks for energy boost is equally important, as quick fixes affect blood sugar levels and can cause ‘afternoon slumps’. “Aim to take your lunch at the same time each day to make the process easier,” says Dr Warwick. “If you have the luxury of multiple rooms, designate one as your break room.”
Step 3 – Make a Plan for Time Out
Do something in your lunch hour find fulfilling, says Dr Warwick. “There’s no right or wrong activity. Whether its reading, meditating, exercising, TV or taking a nap… what’s right for you personally. something that makes you happy prevent sugar cravings too.”
Step 4 – Move!
Research shows that moving your body during lunch break, can help reduce stress, maintain good mental health and make it easier to sleep. To keep motivated, doing the activity before eating your lunch will enhance your incentive to get going as soon as lunch break starts.
Step 5 – Ditch The Guilt
Remember, your lunch break is yours to do with as you wish so there is no reason to feel guilty about reclaiming it. In fact, stepping away from your desk is likely to help you be better at your job which benefits your mind, body and soul in the process.
“Overall, lockdown has been incredibly tough on us all. Personally, I believe lockdown 3.0 has been the most difficult – unlike the first lockdown where we had the sunshine to enjoy, and unlike lockdown 2 when we had Christmas to look forward to. Instead, lockdown 3.0 has provided us with dark cold mornings and nights with a lot of uncertainty as to when this would end. “However, these five steps can help you continue to look after your wellbeing whether your area is still under strict restrictions or not. These are often the simplest things that we already know to do, but putting them into practice and getting them into our routine, can take time and effort. However, in the long run it’ll make home working more effective and better for your mental health. Start small and get one step firmly in place before starting the next if you are finding it difficult.” Dr Gregory Warwick, Quest Psychology Services.