“Al fresco vs al desko,” quipped The Independent in a story contrasting French and British lunch habits, respectively: a revivifying one- to two-hour meal versus a sad existence of scarfing food while hunched over a keyboard.
As Americans, we know where we tend to sit on that spectrum: firmly in the Anglo corner. Dedicated to efficiency and industry, we deny ourselves vacations, many evenings, the occasional weekend, and—on a daily basis—a proper lunch hour.
This is foolish all around—not just for employees, who have an obvious vested interest in spending less time working and more time eating, but for employers as well, who generally benefit when their employees aren’t beaten to a pulp physically and emotionally by the unrelenting rigors of their jobs.
So: five reasons to start taking a long lunch and/or giving your employees the freedom to take a long lunch. And here we’re defining “long lunch” as what lunch used to be: an hour. A real lunch hour, involving sitting down somewhere and eating real food. It’s a wonderful thing for a number of reasons, not least of which because it grants us …
Spend enough time doing anything—particularly if that anything is sitting at a desk and/or in mind-melting meetings—and you will lose effectiveness at doing that thing. You will sink into unproductive patterns. You will burn out. Leaving for a long lunch gives you a chance to recharge, escape, be distracted, and ultimately return ready to render unto your employer more high-quality work, whatever that work may be.
2. Affirmation of Culture
That’s right: culture. That Chicago dog, that Philly cheesesteak, that Juicy Lucy, that banh mi, that lobster roll, that foldable pepperoni slice, that pasty—that’s your culture, man. That’s where you’re from. That local specialty that people go out for, and argue about, and identify as home, that’s an important thing to eat and enjoy.
3. Geographical Grounding
Taking a proper lunch isn’t just a break—it’s a license to explore. It’s a chance to try new places, to (if you’re working in an urban area, particularly) walk the area and find new things. It’s a chance to see your city at work and be part of its rhythms, and support the local economy.
An hourlong lunch is enough time to go out with that coworker or those coworkers whose company you enjoy, and actually connect. Personally speaking, it’s a much-needed diversion, but it can lead to work-related breakthroughs, too, as projects are discussed and brainstormed in an informal setting. So, yeah. There.
5. Life Is Short
At any moment, any of us could be taken out of the picture. Rogue asteroid. Drunk driver. A nude woman with a gun. You never, ever know.
When you’re lying there on the pavement, bleeding out due to a gut shot from the nude woman with the gun, and you’re accounting for your short time on this Earth, long, leisurely, meaningful lunches will surely count as time well spent. And that microwave burrito or takeout tuna sandwich scarfed at the desk? Time flushed down the toilet. If the goal of life is to maximize good times and minimize wasted time, taking a serious lunch hour every day is a huge step toward living a good life.