Let's Do Lunch

Have you ever heard the story of the rabbit and the woodsman?

One day, a rabbit was hopping through the forest and came upon a woodsman, furiously sawing away at a tree. The woodman worked his saw back and forth with great vigour. But for all the hard work, he made no progress.

“Hey buddy!” called the rabbit (yes, it could talk), “What's the matter with your saw?”

“It's dull,” replied the woodman, not even looking up to see that it was a rabbit addressing him.

“Well, why don't you sharpen it?” asked the rabbit.

“Can't stop working. I've got five more trees to cut down after this,” replied the woodsman, still missing out on the sight of talking bunny, and still making no progress into the tree.

“I've got a sharpening stone back at my warren,” said the rabbit. “It'll only take a few minutes. Then you'll be able to cut through that tree like butter.”

“Don't have time,” replied the woodsman. “I'm way behind schedule.”

Sadly, that little fable sums up our approach to lunch breaks in North America and many parts of Europe. Too many of us think we will fall behind in our workload if we take a break.

But research, literature, and anecdotal evidence suggest the opposite is true; productivity is not increasing in equal parts with our shrinking lunch breaks. Organizations face lowered productivity in the afternoon due to reduced energy and mental engagement of their employees. Workers who don't take adequate breaks risk damaging their health through sickness and stress.

That's why this March we're launching the Take Back the Lunch Break Challenge.

The challenge asks people who normally work through their lunch break to commit to taking at least three lunch breaks a week. It's a chance for employees to sharpen their mental saws by enjoying a nutritious lunch that will give them energy. And it's a break from the routine that will give them a fresh perspective when they come back to their desks.

According to Joan Parks-Hubley, PSC Healthy Workplace Program Coordinator, the idea for the Take Back the Lunch Break Challenge came from the University of Toronto.

The university found that one of the key barriers employees had to taking a lunch break was their manager's behaviour. “A lot of people felt if their manager didn't take a lunch break, they shouldn't either,” explains Joan. "When the university sent around a series of postcards encouraging employees to take a break, things began to change.

“People had the postcards up in the cubicles and offices,” she continues. “They felt those postcards gave them permission to go. It was like having somebody else say 'you can, and it's a good thing.'”

Right in time for Nutrition Month, the PSC will be distributing our own postcards to encourage employees to take a break for good nutrition, good mental and physical health, and better productivity.

The cards invite employees to refresh, relax, re-energize, and refocus. Employees will also be invited to sign up for the challenge on the PSC website.

“We've learned from experiences such as the 'Go Green for Commuter Challenge' that if people actually sign up and say 'Yes, I want to do it!' they're more likely to follow through,” says Joan. “Once on the website, they can click on a menu of things they might want to do on their lunch break: take a walk, do errands, visit friends, whatever. And we'll ask for them to tell us what they're going to do, so that list will get longer.”

“We've had really positive feedback (on the cards) from our provincial Healthy Workplace Advisory Committee and employees,” continues Joan. “People are really up for this.”

Of course one issue the Take Back the Lunch Break Challenge will face is getting managers to model it. “We know managers are time challenged and most are striving for greater work-life balance,” says Joan. "This campaign can educate everyone in the workplace about the benefits of taking breaks.

“Changing behaviour and changing culture takes time,” says Joan. “We know that if enough people start to do it, there can be change. If we get some leaders that are willing to do it, that helps, too.”

One leader who is definitely up for the challenge is Public Service Commissioner, Rick Nurse. Rick will be personally distributing the postcards to employees here at the Public Service Commission office on launch day.

Now it's time to toss the challenge over to you. Display your postcards proudly. Collect them all - new designs will be released in the spring. And encourage others to take their lunch breaks. We'll all be sharper for it.

For more information contact:
Joan Parks-Hubley
Phone: (902) 424-7575
Email: parksjm@gov.ns.ca

Healthy Workplace