Learning to respect your hour

While the corporate culture of many organizations has embraced the importance of proper physical and mental care for employees (often over-the-top, looking at you, Google), many 9 to 5 workers are making a conscious decision to ignore lunch, the most important hour of the day — a break likely sanctioned or encouraged by your employer.

In an effort to keep up with workloads, provide for clients or coworkers in other time zones, and maintain an appearance of diligent work ethic, employees frequently neglect their midday break. According to a report cited by the Washington Post, 1 in 5 workers physically stepped away from their desks for lunch in 2012, and a survey of the Paragon staff found that on a typical Monday, 22 percent of the staff stepped away for lunch.

Research has often found that a daily work cycle for humans involves intense focus for between 45 minutes and one hour, followed by a roughly 15 minute break. Let’s say you decide, after an hour of work, a five minute walk to the water cooler would be a nice breather. However, that brief walk involves you sticking your nose into your phone, answering email, dawdling on social media or otherwise distracting yourself. In the end, that break in stimulation and mental demand remains elusive as you find yourself back at your workstation without the energy to regain focus.

Those who decide to take a lunch break away from their workstation often drag tasks along with them via their cell phones, answering emails and corresponding with coworkers and clients. While it may seem impossible to fully tune out all responsibility for a full hour, any amount of time that could be dedicated to collecting thoughts and relaxing without dwelling on the stresses of the day is bound to have long-term health benefits.

Worried that you will be needed by a supervisor or client during lunch? Your cell phone has multiple tools that can be used for selective notification, meaning you decide what will catch your attention. If you haven’t already, assign special ringtones and sounds for emails, texts and calls from specific people you know might need your attention for special cases during the lunch hour. Most smartphones allow for email addresses to be designated “VIP”, allowing for special notifications to get your attention.

Another idea is to have your coworkers or manager designate a certain word to be used at the beginning of text messages or forwarded emails to denote an urgent matter needing attention prior to the end of your lunch break. With this technique, you can glance at your phone and, without unlocking it, know if notifications need your immediate attention. A text message about a meeting that was moved up and could conflict with your lunch outing could read, “URGENT the 2pm meeting is now at 12:30”.

For matters that occur and need attention during your lunch hour, you could treat them as if you were out sick. Set up a system in which the matter is delegated to other people around you that can solve the problem. Don’t forget that when your co workers pick up your slack, you should be ready on the receiving end to pick up their slack when the time comes.

Key Takeaways

  1. Even though your boss wants you to take a lunch, you probably don’t.
  2. Most people skip lunch altogether because they are busy–or want to look busy.
  3. Gluing your phone to your face isn’t a healthy way to take a break.
  4. Don’t let work come with you to lunch.

Wanna Get Away?

  1. Make sure you set a special ringtone or notification for the VIPs that may need you.
  2. Coworkers or management that have a legitimate need during your lunch can text or message a key word to get your attention.
  3. You’re important, but in the name of lunch, your coworkers have your back.

Do you actually relax during your lunch break? Tell me how you spend your hour. Leave a comment below and follow me on twitter @thejoshuawillis.


This article was written by Paragon’s summer intern Joshua Willis.

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