For the 55% of Americans who already eat lunch alone, not much has changed with COVID-19. Though it seems easier and maybe even more productive to eat at your desk, it may be a missed opportunity for your well-being.
Loneliness was a growing concern in the U.S. before the coronavirus pandemic. And now people’s social circles are mostly limited to members of their own households — 28% of which are people living alone. So whether you and your team are working in the office or remotely, it’s important to take advantage of the social time at lunch.
Stepping away from your desk can boost performance and productivity. Employees will want to stay at a company longer when they’ve cultivated relationships and real friendships. Your company may even see better retention, which can lead to better business results.
4 reasons it’s important to have lunch with coworkers
1. It boosts productivity
You shouldn’t spend five straight hours sitting at your desk. A lack of movement and communication can cause a significant impact on your well-being at work. Make an effort to set aside at least 20 to 30 minutes to FaceTime a colleague and eat lunch away from your desk. Health experts say it’s OK to eat with coworkers in person if it’s a small group and at least 6-foot social distancing can be maintained. Follow CDC guidelines and wash your hands often and before eating.
Even better, schedule a weekly team video chat or conference call lunch to catch up and connect. If you set a designated time for your team to eat lunch together, it’s more likely to happen. And this scheduled time allows each team member to take a step back and switch gears during the workday, discover the benefit of breaks and ultimately feel refreshed.
2. It builds better relationships
It’s important to maintain a culture of inclusiveness and trust. And that requires relationships within the workplace. When you eat lunch with your coworkers virtually or face to face, in return you’ll get a closer team. It’s an effortless and natural team building exercise. But it’s important you don’t talk shop. Break down the barriers of work-related topics and dig deeper. Get to know your coworkers on a personal level by learning about their interests outside of work, like their family or big life events coming up.
Consider lunch with someone new or inviting a coworker who’s not on your team to join your group. This allows employees across the organization to connect and create a more meaningful relationship that can carry into daily work.
3. It makes leaders more accessible
Leaders can also use lunchtime to connect with their employees. Monthly brown-bags don’t need to stop during COVID-19 — they can go virtual. At Limeade, any employee has the opportunity to eat lunch once a month with CEO Henry, who sets aside time on his schedule to spend more quality time with employees and have an open discussion around key topics that employees might want to talk about, but haven’t been able to.
These cross-functional lunches on a regular basis make leaders more accessible and foster an environment of transparency, offer innovation and result in a better sense of connectedness.
4. It supports well-being improvement
When you step away from your desk, interact with coworkers and take a mental break, you’re improving your well-being. Not only does lunch with coworkers allow you to chat and catch up, it can encourage you to take time to eat your entire meal rather than scarf down snacks between calls. Once a week, challenge yourself by prepping your meals ahead of time so that you can eat healthy during the workweek.
Take the chance to break away from your desk and get up and move. Even if you take your lunch to the park and talk with a colleague, a new setting can be just the refresh you need to get through the busy afternoon.