Shrinking deadlines, a full inbox and a growing workload can make a 30-minute timeout feel like a luxury most of us can’t afford. In fact, only about 17 percent of Americans eat lunch away from their desk, while the rest of us chug along with a fork in one hand and a laptop in the other. Here are five reasons eating lunch at your desk can be bad for your health.
Five Reasons to Stop Eating Lunch at Your Desk
1. Decreased Creativity and Productivity
It may seem counterintuitive, but skipping out on a lunch break to catch up on those last few emails can actually make you less productive. Sitting in the same place and staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to both health and productivity. Get up and move around for even just a few minutes to boost mental focus, creativity and lower stress levels.
2. Increased Risk for Illness
Your lunchtime desk routine can be a breeding ground for added stress, and also for germs and the risk for illness. Do you remember the last time you gave your keyboard or mouse a good cleaning? Between emails, meetings and presentations, your hands touch countless surfaces before they reach for your food. According to a study by the University of Arizona, the typical desk has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and a whopping 400 percent more bacteria than a toilet seat.
3. Poorer Food Choices
If your mind is preoccupied by other tasks and deadlines, it leaves little room to focus on what you’re putting into your mouth. Eating while you’re distracted can disrupt your body’s hunger and fullness signals, meaning you can end up eating more than if you had your lunch without the screen time. Working through lunch can also lead to poorer food choices, such as making a quick dash to the vending machine or ordering takeout instead of taking the time to sit down to a homemade meal.
4. More Time Sitting
From the commute to an eight hour day, it is easy to rack up a lot of sitting time five days a week, especially if you’re not breaking for lunch. Sitting for long periods of time can have negative consequences for your health, such as an increased risk for certain types of cancers and heart disease, muscle degeneration, poor circulation and even a shorter life expectancy.
While you may be chatting all day via email and text messages, desktop dining takes away from the benefits we get from in-person socialization. Being social has some of the same benefits as exercise for our bodies, such as reduced stress, improved mood, lower blood pressure and increased productivity. Socialization can also help create a team environment in the workplace, allowing everyone to work together and support one another.