• Scott McInnes

44 | Some food for thought...

Two-thirds of us eat lunch 'al desko', despite the fact that advice from experts - and common sense - tells us that it's a bad idea.

An Irish Times article earlier this year said, 'There is nothing good about lunching at your desk. It’s bad for your physical and mental health and it can be very annoying for co-workers who would prefer not to share their air space with the smell of onion.'

And the first piece of advice from the Irish Health Service about minding your mental health at work is to reclaim your lunch break.

One thing I loved about my time at AIB was everyone trekking down to the canteen (SORRY, restaurant!) most days for lunch - a time to take a mental beak, stretch and get away from the desk; and just interact with other human beings. Just being asked to join a group one day and a different group the next was enough to give one a little dump of happy brain chemicals (in itself important for mental health and well-being). Add to that that in a building of 4,000 people it was chance to bump into people you hadn't seen for ages, prompting further chats, coffees and new relationships.

But since starting Inspiring Change, I've found myself slipping back into the habit of the 'al desko' lunch.

I was reminded of it last week when I did actually stop and have my lunch in our shared kitchen. I'd been at a meeting and bought a stir fry from student favourite Yum Thai on Duke St on the way back. The combination of soy, ginger, fish sauce and other exotic ingredients made me decide that it wouldn't be particularly neighbourly to eat it at my desk, so up to the kitchen I went.,

It was great - people coming together, the random chats going on that you could dip in and out of; the idea sharing and the social support was great.

And it spawned this week's blog so that was a bit of a bonus too - one less thing to think about.

Just being away from the desk was great - a bit of time to walk around the block, up the stairs, sit in a different seat and be away from the screen. All of which are important for our own mental health.

So, whether you lead a team or you're in a team; you're in a big company or a small one, think about how you can get away from the desk for 20 mins at lunchtime. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Create a potluck club - once a week, one or two people prepare lunch for everyone

  • Form a bit of a lunch group to whom you're each responsible at lunch time

  • Create a communal space away from your desks for people to get together to eat and chat

  • Start a lunch time walking group

Trust me, you'll feel better in the afternoon and be more creative and productive as a result.

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