Why Working Through Lunch Won’t Get You Promoted
We need to talk about our productivity problem.
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Photo credit by Kris Vowell
The standard 9-to-5 workday isn’t doing our productivity any favors.
Think about it: You park yourself at your desk first thing each morning, when you’re feeling your bright-eyed and bushy-tailed best, only to lose that focus a few hours later.
Lunch may help you get back on track, but not if you’re one of the 62 percent of professionals who eat alone at their desks each day, working through their only significant break out of an all-too-common conviction that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get the job done.
Go home. Rinse. Repeat.
While most of us experience this scenario repeatedly over the course of the average workweek – and are indeed aware of the resultant productivity loss – we also don’t tend to do much about it, a bizarre tendency that is very much tied to the harsh realities of the modern workplace.
As this piece from Inc. explains, those of us who work in “knowledge-intensive economies” experience a constant pressure to appear focused on the job. The researchers point to a larger ideology at work here, explaining that:
“In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.”
In action, though, this really just leads to us working ourselves into the ground because we fear being judged negatively for a perceived lack of commitment. And this tendency isn’t just hurting our productivity, it’s wreaking havoc on it.
As a recent study led by the creators of the productivity-tracking app DeskTime revealed, the average worker is far less productive the more he or she refuses to take breaks, a finding that has prompted the following reaction from Science:
Indeed, if we only listened to our bodies more often, we would be aware that “the brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15-20 minutes),” as this piece in Quartz explains. And those of us who take advantage of this “fundamental need of the human mind” by far outperform our counterparts.
So, do yourself a favor the next time you need to kick it up a notch at work – or better yet, every time you need to do any work for an extended period of time – and give yourself a real break after each hour of intense focus. And no, checking your email or Facebook doesn’t count.
Only a complete separation from the task at hand will reset that internal fatigue clock. Walks are great options, but so, too, are (non-work related) conversations with friends in the breakroom. (The fact that I’ve finally finished this article after a not-so-great writing day is a testimony to the latter.) And under no circumstances are you to endure another “sad desk lunch.”
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