At Wealden District Council each member of the Senior Leadership Team has made a commitment to focus on their own self-care in 2021 and lead by example by being a Lunchtime Hero.
I have been very guilty in the past of working through lunch or eating at my desk. However as part of my recovery from a brain haemorrhage last year and getting back to work full-time, my mentor said, “I’ll give you once piece of advice. Always take your lunch”. I remember saying, “But what if I have a lot on? What if I don’t have time?” She replied, “Make time. It’s your break, make a habit to take it, and if for any reason you need to skip it, make up for it”. I have taken her advice, and I have to say it has made a huge difference to my wellbeing.
What do I do in my lunch break? All sorts of different things, even during lockdown. Sometimes I just go away from my work space and eat my lunch, either on my own or with my partner. Most days I go for a walk. Sometimes I meditate (the ‘Daily Calm’), listen to a podcast or read a book. Sometimes I just find a peaceful spot and just sit there and be quiet. Sometimes I have a power nap!
What is the benefit? Why not just work? Why not indeed. There is always work to be done. We could work 24 hours a day if we wanted to. However, if you don’t create breaks for ourselves, when will we rest or have time for other non-work related activities? I know that I always feel re-energised after taking my break and ready to tackle whatever lies ahead.
For those of you who wish you could take a lunch break but feel you can’t, I pose the questions: What do you think is going to happen if you don’t take your break? Is the world going to come to a standstill? Does the entire responsibility of the Council’s future rest on you personally not taking your lunch-break? Does anyone actually have you in some kind of headlock and is preventing you from taking your lunch?
For those of you who may also be juggling home-schooling as well as working, I understand it must be even more difficult than usual to take any kind of break. All the more reason why it’s important that you do, for them as well as you. Build in a break with your children into your day. Eat lunch together, take a walk together, or if they’ll let you, just do nothing for half-an-hour in front of the TV!
Of course I understand that our work needs to get done and that you want to do a good job. Now and then, I agree there are times, when you might work through lunch – in order to meet a very important deadline, or to take that time out to do something else later, e.g. for a family commitment, medical appointment etc. However, if you are making it a habit to not take your break and are never making up for lost time, I’d love to find out how you feel at the end of the day: well rested and fulfilled with plenty of energy for the evening to come and looking forward to your next day at work? Or tired, irritated and a little bit cranky desiring simply to collapse on the sofa and not even wanting to think about the next working day?
How you manage your energy and time throughout the day is entirely up to you. If you feel that you have too much work to do that does not allow you to take a lunch-break, then have an honest conversation with your colleagues or your manager. Perhaps they can help you with your priorities, or see whether some of your responsibilities can be delegated. Your time management and well-being is just as much your own responsibility as it is your employers’.
We are of course all different souls with individual needs for R&R. I do appreciate how hard it can be to tear yourself away from your work if you are really getting involved in it. The point that I am trying to make here is this: you do have a choice. You can take your lunch-break if you want to.
BE A LUNCHTIME HERO NOT ZERO!
I’d love to hear how you get on.
Averil Price is a Local Government Director with 30 years experience in the public sector. She is also the owner of Avie Consultancy Ltd, a boutique agency providing leadership consultancy and executive coaching to a select group of clients. Avie Consultancy specialise in unlocking potential in individuals seeking to develop their leadership career and legacy coaching to support those reaching retirement age to celebrate their achievements and have a smooth transition to their next life stage.
Contact her email@example.com