Switzerland has a fabulous educational system but there is one thing that drives me up the wall: The children come home for lunch for almost two hours every day. I love my kids, but it messes up my routine. I work from home, so it's not as annoying as if I had to arrange child care or run home from the office, but still it's a disruption. I'd strongly prefer that they eat lunch at school and then come home two hours earlier. It seems this would be better for my productivity–and theirs. (After all, I am concerned about their education as well.)
But, maybe I'm wrong. Josh Davis, director of research at the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, says the Swiss are right: A two-hour lunch is good for you.
Traditionally, the whole family was home for that lunch-time break--and many of my neighbors still have their main meal at noon. But as the work force has shifted out of the local town and into the global marketplace, and more and more women enter the work force, more children are going to "Lunch Tables," which is like a midday daycare, and fewer families are taking the two-hour break during the day. While this makes things easier for the parents who work outside the home, it may not be as good for our brains.
Fast Company summarized Davis's neurological research, which shows we need downtime--and not just five minutes to stretch our legs and get a drink from the office kitchen. Here's what Davis suggests we do in the middle of our day.
1. Read something that isn't work related.
It doesn't give your brain a break if you use your "break" to read the latest work on how to maximize the benefit from your customer data. Read a novel. Read a comic book. Read a book on ancient Grecian urns. Whatever it is, do something that lets your brain breathe.
2. Hang with friends.
Work friends are OK, but be careful not to talk shop. Remember, if you're strategizing for the next project, it's not a break, it's a meeting in a different location. That long lunch sounds like a good idea right about now.
This is another thing that the Swiss do right, according to Davis. When I joined a local gym, I questioned the hours: It's open just four days a week, and not until 9 a.m. I prefer to do my exercise first thing in the morning. After I asked about the hours, the trainer rolled his eyes at me and said, "You're so American." Apparently, the Swiss know that taking a midday break to do their exercise is better for their brains.
There are other things that you can do to give yourself a break. It depends on what you like, but there are good reasons to take a long break during the middle of the day instead of plowing through to the end. Your brain and your productivity will thank you.
If you're a manager, don't complain when your employees take a long lunch. They are just recharging their brains and they'll be more productive in the afternoon.