Why Working at Lunch is Bad for Your Career — and for You

Jul 11, 2014 -
Pop quiz: Where did you eat your lunch yesterday? Let me guess… you scarfed down a sad turkey sandwich wrapped in crinkly plastic in front of your laptop while “working.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s something no one else will tell you, so listen up. Working during lunch is hurting your career AND your health. You should not work during lunch. You need to quit cold turkey. But you can get more done while working through lunch, you say? Read on for a few reasons why you need to step away from the laptop and stop dropping crumbs on your keyboard. (Click here to tweet this list.)

1. Your productivity suffers

You think working during lunch gives you an extra hour of work every day. Bonus, right? But imagine you had one hour of your life back each day. By making an agreement with yourself to take a proper lunch break every day, you’ll be more productive in the other work hours to get your work done (since you no longer have that hour to "catch up.”) When you work through lunch, you give yourself permission to focus on less important tasks -- and you make yourself even busier than you should be. If you don't give your body enough rest during the week, it will eventually catch up to you.

2. You de-prioritize your physical and mental health

When you work during lunch, you don’t focus on what you’re eating. Instead your focus is on the screen in front of you. Use this hour lunch break for its original purpose: Your lunch break. Let your body rest. Working during lunch most likely means you’ll be staring at a computer for an hour instead of socializing with colleagues. Even if you socialize with colleagues about work face-to-face over lunch, that human connection is better than emailing back and forth over your lunch break!

3. Management sees you as less productive

Management will never tell you to stop working through your lunch. What management cares about is how productive you are, and not necessarily how hard you work (Like this idea? Tweet it.) Working harder than your colleagues does not mean that you’re more productive than them. But if your boss sees you work through lunch every day, she’ll assume you’re unable to control your workload and are more prone to make mistakes. The best way to avoid giving off signals that you can’t manage your workload? Don’t work during lunch.

4. Food eaten away from your desk simply tastes better

There may be no scientific evidence that will back this claim. But from my own calculations and personal research, a turkey sandwich eaten outside on the patio tastes 10 times better than the same turkey sandwich eaten at a desk. Your taste buds can't really explain it either, but they love it when you're not eating lunch at your desk. Do yourself a favor. Take a lunch break every single day. Not only will it make you more productive, management --- and your health -- will thank you. And while you’re at it, check out a few more tips to eat better at work (not surprisingly, one of them is to not eat at your desk.) Robbie Abed is the the author of the book Fire Me I Beg You and is an experienced independent IT Consultant. If you want to advance your career by leaving your day job, sign up for the Summer of Quitting email course. It will be the best decision you make all day.