Ting-ting Ting… And rings the most awaited bell since childhood- the recess time!
There always has been a very keen inclination towards the recess period which not only meant a break for the sleepyheads who had been attending classes of various subjects from 8 am in the morning but also meant a small gathering with friends confined to a limited time to discuss certain incidents and episodes of the day, a time solely for chit-chat and exchanging stories, a break which provided relaxation.
Somewhere, we kept following the tradition and inserted it as we grew up, in our office culture as well with a fancier and more professional phrase- THE LUNCH HOUR!
But, what happened to it? Where did it go? Do we miss it? If yes, then how much?
SmartQ would try to answer the whens, wheres, and hows through this blog, addressing most of the concerns with respect to THE LUNCH CRUNCH!!!
Do employees miss the lunch hour?
Lunch breaks are the best time for friendship, communication, and food.
Munching at the cubicle desk or in between meetings with the mic turned off is definitely not a healthy practice for an employee because that doesn’t really solve the purpose.
According to a survey done by Tork, a leading global brand for workplace hygiene, nearly 20% of the employees refrain from taking lunch breaks with a fear of being judged by bosses and colleagues for being less productive. But a lot of people might not be aware that skipping lunch breaks can add on stress.
A WeWork year-end survey carried out in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru stated that the one thing most employees miss amidst the global pandemic is their lunch breaks and 33% of the employees miss the discussions that used to take place during lunch hours with colleagues and fellow workers. Many have also declared in unison that they would want to get back to the office and grab their favorite lunch spot because lunch break is bae!
Why was the lunch break important?
The global pandemic lockdown followed by the new normal work from home protocol in almost all segments of the work environment has brought in a catastrophic apocalypse in the lunch hour and the breaks taken by the employees out of their daily working schedule.
Lunch breaks have kept us healthier for plenty of reasons because a lunch break always meant a regular check on the lunch timings of having food, especially for the ones who stay away from the families and now completely depend either upon food delivery apps or manage by themselves! A cup of strong coffee for most people has replaced the regular wholesome meals. The lunch clock has disappeared with time and the continued extension of the lockdown while working from home.
Lunch breaks paved the way for most impromptu plans, like having to celebrate the birthday of any employee/colleague, or a sudden lunch treat or an ice-cream parlor visit, and so on. With working from home, all the celebrations remain confined and restricted to the virtual world, and the evaporation of the lunch break in order to keep safe and at home has somewhere added a full stop to all the above plans and get-togethers.
Lunch breaks were stress buster sessions of rejuvenation and colleagues bonded together while discussing moments of success, failures, happiness, and sadness. ‘Too many hands in one tiffin box’ suddenly became a ‘Maintain a 2feet distance’ norm overnight, having to let go of not only the lunch hour but also the feeling of belongingness in a group giving away a strong vibe of calmness and positivity.
Lunch breaks also allowed the quintessential act of gossiping about anything and everything. A huge group of employees sitting round in a circle, with food and laughter, with gossips and leg-pullings, with hiding and stealing the only piece of sweet or a fight over the last bite of the pizza is now a sight to behold and desperately yearned for since pandemic has snatched all that away and the recreation of a similar zestful atmosphere over video calls is no fun in reality.
What to do in the lunch hour now?
There were most of us who had badly wanted work-from-home once or twice a week before the entire shift to working remotely had actually begun for time immemorial. Everything comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages,
Similarly, it is greatly seen and appreciated that employees have turned and become more effective with working from home, and studies show that not-taking breaks, both long and short breaks have increased mass production as well.
But then again, there is a need to balance the work-life while working from home and these are the following alternatives that can be practiced during the lunch break, to keep healthy and happy:
Taking a nap during the afternoon is a long-forgotten routine that most of us had practiced during our childhood days. With ample amount of time in hand, a short nap amidst the meeting and project submissions for an hour or so can help, not only by taking eyes off the laptop screen, but also relaxing the back, neck, and shoulders for sitting straight and working, which would not have been possible while working from the office.
Preparing dinner during the lunch break can actually be of huge help for people who highly depend upon food deliveries for meals or just settle down with a bowl of Maggi or salad or for that matter a piece of bread and omelet. Cooking and trying out new dishes would not only give a wholesome home meal but also give a break from eating outside food.
With the work from home settling down for all the upcoming days, the daily cycle for most of us has gone for a toss with no particular time for eating or sleeping, or waking up in the morning. Attending meetings early in the morning, with not much time, the lunch hour can be used to get a hot shower and relax with loose clothes and pajamas on. This would not only act as a step towards personal hygiene, especially during the Covid-19 situation but also help start the second half of the day fresh!
Lunch hours can be the best time to watch the remaining episode of the series without having to compromise the sleeping hours at night or stay awake till dawn, only to hear the birds chirping. If reading a book is not a habit for most of us, devoting an hour during the lunch break to reading a book could not be better utilized. And for people who want to complete certain courses or learn a new language, the lunch break would be the ideal time to remain productive throughout the day.
For the lucky people who stay with the family members, lunch hours could be best used to have lunch with the family members and connect, communicate and share things with them, which remained nearly impossible a task when people had to work from the office. Video calls to friends and other close people during the dedicated lunch hour could also be done, without having to separately take time out for them.
While having to deal with the other paraphernalia of the daily chores like washing of clothes, or ironing them, setting up a cupboard or rearranging the table, decorating the house, changing the bed sheet or washing the utensils, could be easily done during the lunch hour without having to keep them piled up in plenty and addressing them all at once.
The lockdown and work from home have in their true sense showed us the importance of human connection and that people require to be in the company of others for good mental health and keeping sane. And thus, the value of the lunch break at the office and relaxing with colleagues playing a major role in our lives was understood. When creative and great minds meet, ideas are doubled and a lunch break helps in breaking the barriers of hierarchy to discuss and put forth points as well. And the most effective way to encourage the employees to have lunch breaks is by stepping away from the cabins and being one in the crowd.
Infosys founder N.R.Narayana Murthy was known for his high employee morale and value-based leadership qualities where he joined the employees of his team during lunch break and even stood in the line for his meal.
With no clarity on the reopening of the offices and things becoming back to normal and office break rooms being filled with employees and a large buffet spread, we can only stay strong and hope for the best because WE CANNOT LET THE LUNCH HOUR BECOME EXTINCT!