“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art,” said the 17th-century writer François de La Rochefoucauld. It’s tough to say exactly what eating “intelligently” means, but Rochefoucauld might have had a glimpse into what most working Americans don’t do: make time for a lunch break at work. Only one in five people step away from their desks for a midday meal. And if we’re working seven hours more than the average work week, that’s a lot of hours spent at our desks.
The case for taking a lunch break is pretty simple: it makes you a better employee. The payoff of a 15 to 20 minute break is immense: better concentration, productivity, and creativity throughout the day. It’s a proven way to keep your focus and energy up throughout the day. Our cognitive resources are limited, so it’s crucial to recharge: by opting for a “working lunch”, you’re not getting any farther ahead than the people that do take lunch breaks. And let’s be honest: you’re probably skimming the news or watching cat videos at your desk while eating that sandwich. “If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favors,” says Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor studying workplace psychology at UC Davis.
At Percolate, we take lunch pretty seriously. At approximately 11:58 am, people make their ways downstairs to the coffee bar area where lunch is served. It’s a time to catch up with coworkers from other teams, see what everyone’s working on, or debrief on the Game of Thrones finale.The tables get crowded, which is testament to our dedication to recharging with food and company. We start the week green with a DIY salad bar on Mondays, detoxing from a calorific weekend. Fridays can get adventurous, with tacos and BBQ making guest appearances. From my first day at Percolate, I realized that taking the time to eat lunch not only relaxed me, it made me a better writer. Stepping away from my desk for 20 minutes lets me reassess my day’s work, reorganize my to-do list when I return, and focus through what could otherwise be an afternoon slump. (The cold brew coffee on tap also helps.)
Eating together means face-time with people you don’t work with— even with our New York office at 200 people, recruiters can sit down with product managers at lunch, and marketers with salespeople. It’s also a leveller that reminds us we’re all building the same product, just in different ways. In her book Eating Together, Alice Julier argues that dining together can be a perception changer: it reduces our perceptions of inequality, and we tend to view those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than we would in other social scenarios.
In this knowledge economy, we’re faced with the need to be “online” all the time, whether at the gym, on the subway, or even on vacation. Here at 107 Grand Street, we’re fighting valiantly against the death of the lunch break. Now close this tab, and go get lunch.