A recent survey by TotalJobs showed that over half of employees rarely take a lunch break. (68% of 7,135 people surveyed). Putting aside the massive amount of unpaid overtime this if creating, taking a lunch break is important “you” time that can drastically improve your overall day in the office.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone in the office has commented as I sit in the break room reading a book on my lunch break. Some seem to genuinely admire this ability to switch off, some comment smugly how nice it must be as they rush back to eat a sandwich over their keyboards. The truth is, these people are gernerally no busier than me and they will not get more done in the day. Productivity is not measured by the amount of time you are seated at your desk but by the amount and quality of work done during the day.

The reasons for not taking a break is almost always time, to much to do and not enough time to do it, but how much productivity is lost as you grow tired and weary after not moving for hours and staring at your computer screen? When you are sat at your desk all day, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. With new emails popping up all the time and a growing to-do list, setting your priorities and sticking to them can be hard and you can end up flitting from one task to another without really making progress. Stepping away from your desk and focusing on a new task can give you back that clarity of mind you need to get things done.

For me, this break is achieved through reading. I find it is the one thing that helps me to clear my mind and get away from my own thoughts for a while. For you it may be taking a walk, sharing lunch with a friend, even going to the gym if you are energetically inclined. Just don’t spend the break on your phone. Although you may feel like you are taking a break as you are doing something for personal use and not for work, you are still staring at a screen, typing, drafting messages etc. and your brain will not notice much of a break in the type of tasks it is being asked to do!

This is of course, assuming you have been sat at a desk all morning responding to emails and calls. If you have been in meetings, giving presentations or training people then maybe some quiet time scrolling through your phone is the break you need. The key is to undertake a different task to the regular to allow your brain time to be refreshed when you get back to it.

Once you have taken a break and cleared your mind, take a moment to review your morning and decide what task you are going to tackle first when you sit back down in front of the screen. What needs to be done by the end of the day?

Aside from productivity, another benefit of taking a break is making connections and the chance to socialise. If your office is like mine, you sit in a bank of desks with those in your team and don’t often speak with other colleagues. You may email over a specific task but rarely talk face to face. Sharing a lunch table with other members of staff gives you that opportunity to make friends outside of your immediate team.

Not to mention how inconsiderate it is to eat noisy and smelly food at your desk, that will not make you any friends!

Originally published at medium.com