January 3, 2023 | In the News
The Key To Workplace Productivity Isn’t Late Nights—It’s Lunch
Look into just about any office of corporate America at 8 p.m., and you’ll likely find the same scene: employees working late into the night, trying to either finish up the day’s work or get ahead of tomorrow’s. Having started my career in the financial services industry at the height of the Great Recession, it’s a story I know all too well. Navigating a fast-paced environment amid market instability is neither an easy feat nor a comfortable one.
The onus is placed on employees to fulfill heightened expectations with fewer resources and cope with rising work-life stress, all while ensuring their output doesn’t slip. For years, corporate America has decided that enduring late nights is the way to succeed. But in reality, burning the midnight oil is more likely to leave you burned out than enlivened, inspired and ready to tackle another full day.
New research shows the key to optimizing a company’s function isn’t working by the light of the full moon—it’s refueling during waking hours with the help of lunch. Encouraging employees to pause and enjoy a midday meal can make office professionals more productive, energetic and creative—we found this in the survey we mention below. Cultivating a culture that feeds its employees can make an entire company stronger.
As leaders, one of the most impactful company initiatives we can lead is building a culture that encourages employees to take lunch breaks. Because food doesn’t just fill stomachs, it can fuel entire organizations.
A recent survey of 500 office professionals conducted by Sharebite, powered by Wakefield Research, found that 97% say that taking a lunch break improves their workday. However, work culture seems to be getting in the way of the feel-good benefits of a midday meal. Particularly in North America, working hard is synonymous with near-constant industriousness.
Forty-three percent of those surveyed say that they get too busy and forget to eat, while 39% skip lunch to finish their work as quickly as possible. While common and even tacitly encouraged, working through lunch in the name of productivity is misguided. Neither party is well served when business needs take precedence over the most basic human needs. A 2019 study by the National Institute of Health found that poor nutritional choices result in worse mental and physical well-being.
To create an atmosphere where employees feel empowered to step away from their spreadsheets to eat, leaders should lead by example. When executives make taking a lunch break a priority, it emphasizes that eating lunch isn’t slacking off—on the contrary, it leads to success.
Keeping employees fully engaged and their burnout at bay is perhaps the biggest challenge facing employers today. The recipe for reliably inspiring employees and uplifting an entire organization might be literal.
Research shows that what we eat directly impacts brain function. The Sharebite study found that 64% of employees report that a meal at work gives them the energy needed to continue their day, and 51% of employees agree that lunch breaks help them focus on work and be more productive. Additionally, 28% of employees report that taking a lunch break makes them more creative.
The data is clear: The multi-sensory, replenishing experience of eating a meal enriches our senses and energizes us to take on new tasks. However, many employees aren’t aware of the fact that eating lunch is key to increasing workplace creativity and productivity. Like all great recipes, this one deserves to be shared—pique employees’ appetites by circulating interesting articles and studies about the brain-boosting power of lunch breaks.
Food in the office plays an essential dual purpose. Employees aren’t just looking for better benefits—they’re hungry for a deeper sense of belonging within the workplace.
Many of us who entered the workforce pre-pandemic largely took the opportunity to build in-person relationships (and communities) with our colleagues for granted. People who entered the workforce over the last three years are yearning for opportunities to have that same sense of belonging and camaraderie. A lunch break presents an opportunity to fulfill and supercharge the experience of turning companies into communities. Those who engage in social eating report feeling more emotionally and socially supported by their colleagues. These bonds don’t just make us happier and healthier—they make us better at our jobs.
Going into the office used to be a mainstay of the daily routine, but now for many of us, it’s an event. Food gives us something to gather around. Set specific lunch hours for different teams to capitalize on lunchtime’s unique capacity to turn co-worker relationships into invaluable friendships.
Fourteen percent of individuals surveyed for the Sharebite study said they end up skipping out on lunch because of a lack of convenient or accessible meal options for lunch. When looking for the right food benefits platform for your company, prioritize flexibility. Tech-enabled options should make it easy for employees to order exactly what they’re craving and easily integrate lunch into their schedule no matter where they work.
A culture that emphasizes the importance of refueling during the day and signals to employees that their well-being is a top priority can be a force multiplier for employee engagement, productivity and loyalty. Given the uncertain economic environment, it’s clear that teams across companies can learn how to do more with less; however, company leaders must not lose sight of investing in employees by providing flexibility and a sense of agency, as these can be critical determinants of resilience.
Dilip Rao is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sharebite, the leading food benefits platform designed for the modern workforce.
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