Too often, we work through lunch or, worse yet, meetings are scheduled during the lunch hour. Do you break for lunch? What are your best tips for taking time for lunch?
Janni Aragon, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC
Yes, I try to take a lunch break every day. It could turn into a 20-minute break or an 80-minute break. It depends on my teaching schedule and the day, but I make sure to take a break. I pack my lunch most days, and this helps me take the time I need to have a healthy lunch. I might read a book, listen to music, stream something or just have quiet during this break. I have a yoga mat in my office and will often stretch to relax before I eat my lunch.
Now, I have to admit that I did not always take a break as an academic administrator. I often worked at my desk during my lunch due to need. And there were lunch meetings where lunch was provided and others where lunch was not provided. Who books a lunch meeting and doesn’t feed people? I discouraged the working lunch for the team who reported to me. I was very familiar with their collective agreement and knew that if they had a working lunch, they were entitled to a nonworking lunch hour. I had to manage department needs, the collective agreement and what is right. I often noted that they needed time off and to not look to my example.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
I kinda do? I often eat at my desk, but I’m usually surfing the internet and reading work-adjacent things I find on social media. It means my lunches are short, but at the same time, I coach swimming three days a week, and I’m grateful that I have the flexibility to leave a little early to get to practice on time. The short lunch at my desk ensures that I have all my work done. Much of my work is highly collaborative, so these lunches at my desk are also a chance to have a few moments of quiet time to myself. I have also started to get to work as soon as the building opens, again, to have some quiet time to center myself for the day, as well as get work that needs uninterrupted time done before all the meetings and collaborations and various tasks and fires that inevitably need to get put out.
If you were to look at my Twitter feed any given workday, you’d be able to tell if I’m doing a lot of small, varied things (between tasks I’ll take a quick Twitter break) or having to intensely work on a larger task or project. Typically, I try to minimize taking long breaks and take a lot more shorter breaks, just so that I don’t lose momentum.
Niya Bond, University of Maine, Orono, Me.
I'm pretty adamant that lunch time is me time. I'm the type of person who, without setting that intention, would never give myself a break, and I've learned the hard way that missing my me time actually decreases my professional motivation and productivity. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I need the refresh.
That being said, I do occasionally blur boundaries when it comes to taking a break. I'm typically juggling a lot, so I sometimes use my lunch hours to work on Ph.D. homework or tackle tasks related to my other interests (like writing). Most often, though, I physically separate myself from my desk -- maybe I'll attend a workout class (we have a great campus rec center), or I'll eat somewhere else on campus with coworkers and friends, refreshing through community-building and good conversation.
Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Academic Impressions, Denver, Colo.
I tend to have a short 15-minute lunch at my desk because I prioritize an outdoor walk -- regardless of weather. A quick 20- to 30-minute walk outside completely changes my state of mind, and I usually return ready to tackle the rest of my day. (For the science behind this, Florence Williams’s The Nature Fix is an excellent read!) I don’t mind giving up a lunch break for this much-needed outdoor time.
Meg Palladino, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
I am well-known in my office as the person who resents lunch meetings; I nearly always take a lunch break. I work better when I can step away and clear my head, and leaving the office brings me back refreshed, recharged and ready to focus again. I always try to leave the office for a walk or to run a quick errand that will make my evening less stressful. I also feel a responsibility to model taking lunch breaks for my co-workers. I try to set the tone that work-life balance is important, and that taking a lunch break is normal and healthy.