Hands up, who remembers what a lunch break is? The government and media might be saying that things are getting better, but everyone I know is overworked and underpaid. Most of my friends and family struggle to get a lunch break and often skip it altogether despite not getting paid extra or claiming it back later. It’s easy to do once or twice, but then it becomes a routine and before you know it, it just becomes the expected thing, and you have to fight to get outside to buy a sandwich. Then what happens when you suddenly realise you’s working an extra five hours a week without pay or even acknowledgement? It’s easy to do and I know I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past – I carried on until I felt so burnt out I could barely be bothered to work my actual hours. I soon realised that no matter what extra I was doing, it was never acknowledged or appreciated by the company – I was putting myself out and suffering in the process without anyone actually noticing.
So what did I do? I drew the line. I made that decision to stop working all these extra hours, to stop giving 200% all the time because it was starting to make me hate my job. I cut back, took a back step and stopped being afraid to say no when I was given more work than my hours allowed. Yes, people were surprised at first because I had always been the type of person to take on all this work and never complain but had I gained any more respect or bonuses as a result? Nope. I would actually say that after making these changes I felt more respected in the workplace than ever. I was no longer a dogsbody who never said no, I was a valued member of the team who people then realised had been doing more than her fair share. It wasn’t an easy thing to realise or to make that change, but it has really changed both my attitude to work and my awareness of how much pressure I can put myself under before I can’t take any more.
Now I make sure I always get a lunch break, and when I work extra hours, I am sure to claim them back or claim extra pay because it is what I am owed. I don’t mind paying my dues and giving 110% all the time, but giving 200% is unrealistic and plain exhausting – especially when it is never appreciated. This is when people burn out and why so many have to take a break from work with stress. Making this change has left me with lovely hour-long lunch breaks and this post is all about how you can make the most of your break.
- Always get away from the computer screen. Do your best to get outside and get some fresh air, this is a great time to get in some exercise which will help refresh you after all those emails. I like to go for a brisk walk around the town or by the river and always feel better for it.
- Do your food shopping – why not save yourself from the Friday afternoon rush or free up some time on the weekend by taking on the supermarket in your lunch hour? If you live close enough, take the shopping home, or leave it in the fridge at work. If you don’t work or live close enough for either, why not order online and get it delivered?
- Browse the shops. A lunch hour is a great time to whiz round the shops in town, although busy it is never as busy as a Saturday and you can use the time to try on clothes or stock up on make-up.
- Getting your hair cut can be a perfect fit if like me you go for a wash, cut and blow dry. My hairdresser can do it perfectly in 45 minutes which still leaves me time to wolf down a sandwich. It also means you get instant comments from the rest of the office!
- If you work close enough, why not pop to the gym or an exercise class? I would love to do this, but just don’t work close enough. A lunchtime swim or yoga class would be lovely.
- A perfect lunch break for me is often spent escaping into another world when reading a good book in the sunshine by the river. A book is such a treat, but music will do the trick as well. Just a bit of escapism nicely relaxes you for when you head back to the office.
- Meet with friends for lunch or a coffee and have a catch up – the hour will fly past and you’ll be racing back to the office. Plus if you all work close together but have busy lives outside of work, this can be a great way to find time for a catch up. If your partner works nearby, this could make a short but sweet date.
- If you really can’t escape the screen and the weather outside is foul, why not use this time to blog, write or research? It keeps you busy, uses the time wisely and there is less to do when you get home.
- For those who work in the centre of town or cultural areas, there are always exhibitions and events on at museums – you could pop along and learn something new (these are often free as well).
- Take the time to prepare really nice lunches for yourself when at home – lovely salads or leftovers from last night’s dinner – if you have a lovely meal, you often go to more effort to eat and enjoy it. If you are wolfing down a soggy sandwich or a Cuppa Soup you’re more likely to rush it while working. Taking the time to enjoy your food makes a real difference to your attitude towards food as well.
How do you make the most of your lunch breaks? Have you got any good tips for ways of filling that lunch hour?