16 Things You Should Do On Your Lunch Break Today: Some I/O Psych Research:
Forbes has 16 recommendations for what you should be doing on your lunch break. Some of them are quite good. I like the suggestions of exercising, decompressing, making a plan, eating, socializing, and networking. The reason I like them is because they are supported by some research from I/O Psychology on the effects of different types of “breaks” when at work.
A 2008 study investigated the hypothesis that while breaks at work are designed to help employees recover so they can be productive and avoid burnout throughout the day, some breaks further deplete a worker's cognitive resources depending on what the employee does during their break. Essentially the premise is that you want to do low effort (restful) activities like socializing or relaxing, and avoid high effort activities (chores) like working thorough the break or running errands. The research showed that employees who relaxed during their breaks were happier, less irritable, and smiled more after the break than people who did chores. Beyond that, people who did chores during their break demonstrated an increase in negative emotions. The takeaway here is that if you actually rest during your break, you’ll have more positive emotions and be better suited to take on challenges the rest of the day, whereas doing chores during your break engenders negative emotions and further diminishes your ability to be effective for the rest of the day. Think about that as you plan your afternoon lunch and breaks, but be sure not to think too hard.
Citation: Trougakos, J. P., Beal, D. J., Green, S. G., & Weiss, H. M. (2008). Making the break count: An episodic examination of recovery activities, emotional experiences, and positive affective displays. Academy of Management Journal, 51(1), 131-146.