We all lead busy working lives and it’s not unusual to see employees in the office eating lunch at their desk – in fact, it can be quite common, especially if employees enjoy watching YouTube videos or browsing the internet on their breaks. During the coronavirus crisis, we’ve become even more accustomed to eating at our desks at home, often finding it difficult to step away from our computer screen altogether. The idea of ‘desktop dining’ during our working hours might look like we’re being productive and creative, but we actually might be doing more damage than we think.
Bucking the trend
This phenomenon of ‘desktop dining’ is also an increasing trend. Often, we’ll be reading, listening or watching something interesting on the internet whilst we’re eating and that can be perfectly productive and normal, especially when there are limited break rooms in the office.
Our dependence on technology continues to grow and technology-related syndromes such as phone separation anxiety (PSA) are being proposed as actual medical disorders by researchers. But the real impact of being in front of a computer screen all day isn’t really known and it can depend on a person’s activities outside of work. For the younger generation in particular, the internet and smartphones are seen as tools to foster learning and curiosity or connect with lots of different people, so perhaps it is not a question of completely banning digital consumption during break times. Everyone is different and free to spend their breaks and lunch times as they see fit, so implementing ‘digital bans’ probably isn’t the way to try and make your employees step away from their screen. Instead, try encouraging employees to leave the office, or their house, at least once a day – even if it’s just for five minutes. It can be a great way to clear their minds and can set them up for the day. Taking the team out for an informal lunch every so often can also be an incentive for employees to leave their screens.
Even in winter you should try to encourage employees to get some fresh air during the day, because even if it’s cold, it can contribute to a good state of mind. If you have no choice but to stay in the office or at home because of the weather, you should look for an alternative – taking a walk round the office or reading a magazine or book. Now, you might be thinking, what is the difference between reading text on a monitor and reading it on paper? First of all, of course, the flickering light from the screen is not good for our eyes, but also, the risk of overstimulation is particularly critical here – when we’re constantly presented with advertising pop ups and hyperlinks to click through we can become distracted and our brain can be put under stress. Although this might be a useful form of research, it’s best to avoid it as much as possible during breaks.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic do not have to prevent employees from spending time outside. Of course, we all need to keep our distance from others but if we are in the office with our colleagues, asking them to go for a socially-distance walk or coffee can be good to get some fresh air.
Contrary to the belief of many workaholics, breaks during working hours do not inhibit work performance, but actually increase it. After all, with a clear head you feel more refreshed and ready to jump back into work with a more open mind.
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