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We're Not Taking Enough Lunch Breaks. Why That's Bad For Business

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Did you take a lunch break yesterday? Are you planning to take one today?

Chances are the answer is no. Fewer American workers are taking time for lunch. Research shows that only 1 in 5 five people steps away for a midday meal. Most workers are simply eating at their desks.

But studies have also found that the longer you stay at work, the more important it is to get outside of the office, even if it's just for a few minutes, because creativity can take a hit when you don't change environments.

"We know that creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to a nature-like environment, to a natural environment," says Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, who studies workplace psychology.

"So staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It's also detrimental to doing that rumination that's needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an 'aha' moment," Elsbach tells Jeremy Hobson, host of Here & Now.

And in a knowledge-based economy, where innovation is what your workers produce, that can also be detrimental to the bottom line.

To reap the benefits of a lunch break, "you don't actually need to go eat," Elsbach says, "you just need to get out. And it doesn't have to be between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to have a positive impact. It can be just going outside and taking a walk around the block. That in itself is really restorative."

Elsbach tells The Salt that her research has found that "mindless" work — which can include tasks like walking — can enhance creativity.