In praise of lunch

"Let’s do lunch!" A common invitation many years ago. But sadly, it seems that not many people have time for lunch these days. Stopping work, leaving our desks and eating lunch is important. It gives us a break and helps recharge our batteries for the afternoon.

By Jeremy Ryland


A lot of people skip lunch, or grab a snack on the run, or worse: eat a sandwich at their desks, “al desko”, and this is not good!

The evolution of lunch


Did you know that the word “lunch” comes from luncheon, which in medieval England was “nuncheon”, meaning a noon draught of ale with bread? It was an extra meal between midday dinner and supper especially during the long days of hard labour in the fields. It provided a break and an energy boost.


The time of eating was, and maybe still is, a social expression and shows up class differences… the upper classes breakfast late as befits their leisure status - and the main meal is a late dinner. Whilst for the working classes breakfast is early (as they have to go to work) and then they have an early “tea” after the work is done. In Europe today, many restaurants don’t open until after 8 pm. Yet in Australia, we have dinner as early as 5 pm, perhaps a throwback to our working-class heritage.


Over time, luncheon slowly evolved into a midday meal, shaped by the business community and still provides a much-needed break during work. I talked about the importance of a break in the middle of the day – to rest, relax and recharge our batteries – in my article 'Viva la siesta!'. It is important to have a break as it clears your mind and refreshes.

Business lunch


In fact, lunch is a significant part of work. The business lunch, which used to be very popular before FBT and excessive work hours, is important as it permits us time to relax and chat about those things that we don’t discuss in memos, proposals and letters – the unspoken things that get a chance to be spoken at lunch.


The business lunch has a complex set of rules and conventions which we know and follow. The person who does the inviting does the paying. It is important not to get straight down to business. We chat for a while about personal interests, sports, the weather and mutual acquaintances. Finally, we talk about the business at hand although everyone is careful to avoid giving the impression that the lunch exists solely to facilitate business!


The business lunch is about building and cementing relationships, establishing trust and creating alliances. And despite the social changes, it still has a major place in good business. Humans are social animals and we respond best to visual clues and interaction. More of the world’s problems could be solved over lunch than at general meetings and conferences.


Skipping lunch

However, today, research shows that almost half of us skip lunch at least once a week and 10% rarely or never have lunch! And approximately 65% of us eat lunch at our desks.


People who think skipping lunch will help them lose weight are also misleading. Skipping a meal slows the body’s metabolism: if there is no food, our body’s natural reaction is to conserve energy, so we burn fewer calories. It is better to keep our metabolisms running with a small meal. And research shows that people who eat at their desks generally consume more snacks and kilojoules than those who venture out to eat.


Moreover, it has also shown that a large number of us eat the same thing every day. This can be good for reducing stress and focusing on work, but often means that lunch goes unnoticed.

Let’s do lunch!


Stopping work, leaving our desks and having lunch is important.


In fact, as I have written about before, think we should bring back the siesta! At the very least, we should encourage everyone to get away from our desks and workplaces for a little “me” time and relax. Science is suggesting that more of us should be taking a midday break for our health and sanity. It clears your mind and refreshes, and helps recharge our batteries for the afternoon.


And not with a screen! Social media is not a replacement for real life. Get some social exercise. Eat away from your desk. Talk to your colleagues. Encourage social times. Eat slowly. Eat mindfully. Talk. Listen. See and taste what you are eating! And enjoy. 

So let’s encourage everyone to take a break: take a long lunch, have a siesta, relax, recharge and reinvigorate. Let’s do lunch!