Being raised and starting my early career in Singapore taught me that eating lunch at my desk was taboo. Singaporeans work hard, but come lunch time, people leave offices en masse to eat lunch. It doesn’t have to be long – often it’s a quick 20-minute jaunt to the nearest food court, but there’s something magical about that connection with colleagues over (Singapore’s famously delicious) food. It’s often a great opportunity to clear your head. And we returned back refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
When I moved to the United States six years ago, I was surprised to see that no one “took” lunch. Staying at your desk was a badge of honor. In fact, colleagues often bragged about being too busy for lunch, eating candy and chips from packets instead.
I found myself quickly following suit; much to the detriment of my health. Worse of all, I’d bring all my work problems and stresses home, never quite getting away from it all. Ever.
There’s good research on why we shouldn’t eat our desks–I’ve included some of it in a related article I wrote for Forbes.
So I’m publicly declaring now: I’m never working through lunch again. When I have an opportunity to connect with clients, colleagues or friends over lunch, I’m thrilled. On the rest of the days (which are the majority of my lunches), I put away my phone and catch up on a book. When I initially made this plan, I found myself falling prey to sending work emails on my phone while eating lunch alone. I soon realized: that’s cheating. So I’ve recently banned my phone too. It was hard at first, but I now find myself returning to work refreshed and ready to tackle challenges anew.
We would be infinitely more productive if we looked up from our desks, talked to each other and became intentional about taking time away from screens, each day. I hope you’ll join me. Just try it for a week…then please do share with me what you discover.