7 Ways to Optimize Your Lunch Break

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
May 25, 2023

Have you ever eaten at your desk so you could work straight through lunch or mindlessly scrolled social media while gulping down your midday meal? You’re not alone. A 2017 analysis notes that the concept of taking a lunch hour is becoming increasingly rare, whether you’re voluntarily using the time to get ahead on work, receiving pressure from your boss or coworkers to prioritize work over breaks, or simply feeling guilty for wanting a break.

But skipping out on the natural work pause that taking lunch gives us isn't always the best approach. “Taking breaks is key for optimal performance,” says Larry Marks, Ph.D., staff psychologist at the University of Central Florida Counseling & Psychological Services in Orlando. “The mental break from work is important, as well as taking time to have a healthy lunch.”

Get the Most Benefit from Your Break

If your lunch breaks are a blur of mindless activity, you might need to be more intentional about your lunchtime. The optimal lunch hour may look different from person to person. Implementing these strategies can help you find what works best for you.

Think About Your Day as a Whole

For some people, working through lunch helps them prioritize their life outside of work. “If you're trying to get as much work done because you aren't able to extend your work hours into the evening, then I don't think it's a bad thing,” says Cassie Holmes, Ph.D., professor of marketing and behavioral decision making at UCLA Anderson School of Management, and author of Happier Hour. “Once I had kids, I started working through pretty much all of my lunches, because it's so important for me to be available to my family in the evenings.