If you’re heading back to work after the holidays and dreading the idea of sad desk lunches, you’re not alone! Before you get back into a routine of eating through lunch with a sad pre-made sandwich, think about ways you can spruce up your desk lunch routine for a healthier and more productive you.
It’s not always possible to make time for a proper lunch break, and I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to scarfing down a quick meal while I’m frantically trying to make a deadline. On those days when you simply can’t step away from the desk, there are small actions you can take to create a healthier lunch time routine in spite of not being able to take a real break.
Here are five things I always try to do when I’m eating lunch at my desk. I find they make a big difference, and I hope you do to!
1. Get up and go for a short walk
There are proven health benefits to even a short walk around the block, and in terms of productivity it can make a world of difference. Even on days when I don’t actually need to pop out of the office, I’ll usually join a colleague who is walking down the street to pick up a bite to eat or needs to run an errand. The fresh air and movement will get your brain fuelled for the afternoon, and will do you a world of good.
Even better, go for a short walk after you’ve eaten your lunch. It’ll help kickstart your digestion so you’re not sitting there with a lump of food in your belly making you feel sluggish and reaching for the caffeine or sugar in the afternoon.
2. Wash your hands
Seriously, go wash your hands! Computer keyboards are positively crawling with germs (you really don’t want to know) and if you go right from the keyboard to the lunch box, those creepy crawlies are going to end up in your system as well.
Washing your hands also sets the tone for lunch time, even if you do end up eating at your desk. It signals that one activity is ending another is beginning, and since we’re highly programmable creatures it will likely signal to your brain that it needs to get ready for digestive work.
Plus hand washing gets you up from your desk, even if just for a couple of minutes, and is generally always a good idea.
3. Plate your lunch
If you can, take the time to take your lunch out of whatever you brought or bought it in, and put it onto a plate. This is a simple act, but it creates a bit of mindfulness around the meal time that we wouldn’t have if you were eating out of the package.
If you can, take that plate and sit with friends or colleagues for a short social lunch, but if that’s not an option, you’ve at least created a small ceremony for yourself.
4. Refill your water bottle
Although I don’t usually recommend drinking a lot of water with a meal (it dilutes your digestive juices and can lead to troubled digestion) I strongly advocate for staying hydrated at your desk. Keeping your water bottle filled throughout the day will not only ensure you stay hydrated, it typically forces you to take short breaks and get up from your desk when nature calls – and that’s a good thing!
5. Shut your screen off
I’m fully aware that this isn’t always a possibility, but taking just five minutes of screen-free time in the middle of your work day can do you a world of good. It gives your eyes a break, gives your brain a break, and allows an opportunity to reset.
Better yet, can you keep the screen off (and your phone away!) the entire time you’re eating lunch? It doesn’t have to be a long one, but making this kind of space for yourself can make a big difference for your stress levels and overall productivity.15