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Written by Tadd Giles   
Wednesday, 06 February 2008

To be successful in the tech industry, we need to be highly productive, we need to stay current with new technology, and we need to work really well with others. We also need to enjoy our jobs. We can improve our results in all of these areas if we will place a higher priority on having good lunches. Lunch is important!


Bad Lunch

We have all experienced them, but let's touch on what a bad lunch is for a moment. There are two common offenders: eating lunch alone at your desk, and the standing lunch meeting. Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes you just have to eat your lunch at your desk, and sometimes your boss just won't accept no for an answer when she calls a lunch meeting. However, these are far too common in our workplace. We are so accustomed to bad lunches that we hardly realize the damage they do.

Why is this bad?

Without reasonable rest and refueling, we can't perform as well. When we don't take breaks, we lose focus and energy and our performance suffers. Just as athletes tire the longer they spend in a game, the longer we stay "on task," the more fatigued we feel. Higher performers take regular breaks from their work because they know the benefits of recharging.

Also, when we eat at our desks, we're usually alone. This leads to curmudgeonly isolation from our coworkers. While some of us might prefer that, today's workplace demands that we work well with others. We can't do that if we isolate ourselves.

Finally, eating lunch alone is not fun. When is the last time you had a good laugh sitting by yourself eating lunch in your office? Maybe you saw something funny on the Internet, but it's just not that common.

When you consider all the ramifications, lunch meetings are inefficient. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, we're eating AND we're meeting. We're doing two things at once. That's very efficient, right? Actually, no. Effective meetings are focused on making decisions or sharing information, and lunch gets in the way of these activities. Remember Health 101: when you eat, your body sends more resources to your stomach and fewer to your brain. When we're eating, we are not able to focus our full brainpower on the decisions being made or the information being shared. It's physically impossible.

Also, think about the last lunch meeting you had. "did you get the ham on wheat, or the chicken?" "Who got my chicken without mayonnaise?" Rustle, rustle, crackle, crackle. "Oops, sorry! I didn't mean to spill that." That's not effective meeting time; that's a picnic.

Some might argue that there's a social benefit to the lunch meeting. Not only are we taking care of some business, but we're also socializing a bit; you know, we're "team-building." However, just like lunch hampers the meeting, the meeting gets in the way of the socialization. While we're eating lunch and talking, we are inevitably thinking about the meeting. And often some "efficient meeting" individual is already up at the whiteboard, writing up an agenda. Socialization is short-changed in the lunch meeting as well. 

Just say no to standing lunch meetings.

The "Decline" button is your friend. Also, think twice before you call a lunch meeting yourself.

Now I will admit that a lunch meeting can be fun, just like a good meeting can be fun. But a lunch meeting isn't likely to be as fun as having a good lunch.

Good Lunch

Here's a good lunch: you get away from your workspace with others that you work with, and you enjoy lunch and enjoy your company. While you're at it, you learn something new about something interesting, and you get to know someone better.

Why is this good?

We need breaks. We need to get our minds off work and talk about some non-work topics. If we make lunch a time to renew our physical and mental strength, we will be more productive during our work times.

We must work well with others. Our success will be limited if we don't. Collaborating with coworkers is not optional in today's workplaces. To work well with others, we must build good relationships with them. Many times we start working with someone and we expect them to instantly trust us, agree with us, and like us when they know nothing about us. Lunch is one of the easiest ways to help others get to know us and for us to find hidden talents and personality traits in others.

We can improve poor relationships. Let's face it; we all work with someone who we don't see eye-to-eye with. Oftentimes this is because we don't know each other. Lunch can help. If you're not getting along with someone, go to lunch with him or her, and see what happens. You may build a stronger bond of trust, and you may make friend.

Lunch is fun. You will enjoy your work more and enjoy life more if you take time to enjoy lunch. You will be a happier person. Oh, and by the way, happy people are more productive. They perform higher quality work and they get more work done.

Bottom Line

A bad lunch can isolate you, hurt your productivity, and do nothing for your happiness. A good lunch can help you be more effective with others, more productive in your work, and just plain happier. That is why lunch is important.

So give some thought to how you spend lunch. Is it important to you? It may be more important than you think.

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