Why Lunch and Learn should be a thing of the past

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The practice of ‘Lunch and Learn’ events is ever popular, with some companies now commandeering the personal time of staff to attend wellbeing events. With all that we now know about the restorative properties of taking regular work-breaks, why are we still advocating using this precious time for workplace learning?

 No such thing as a free lunch

Everybody knows there is no such thing as a free lunch. The practice, originally adopted by bars to encourage drinking customers, continues today with casinos providing free food and drink to gamblers to keep them at the blackjack tables – quite literally – feeding their habit! In the same way, staff accepting the free lunch, will inevitably be paying for it in another way.

So, what are staff sacrificing when they relinquish their lunch break?

A break from work helps individuals to reduce sensory overload. It is a time for them to change their thinking patterns and reduce their stress levels by doing something they choose to do. This builds physical, mental, emotional and social resilience.

‘…lunch breaks offer an important setting for internal recovery during working days and seem to relate to energy levels at work over time.’  

Sianoja et al (2016)

 Staff need time to re-charge their batteries.

The ‘grab-and-go’ food choices available at lunchtime learning events are seldom the most nutritious; and by eating lunch on the run, we forego the pleasure of really enjoying what we are eating. Simply using all our senses when we eat, will provide a mindfulness interlude to our day too.

Our best ideas are often generated when we give our minds a break.

Things completely unrelated to work, such as hobbies or sports that give staff a chance to try something new, will reward the learner with increased feelings of competence, mastery and self-esteem and will enable them to build resilience.

Learning encourages social interaction; and the setting of personal goals to achieve something, has been shown in studies to increase life satisfaction.  An optional opportunity with the right learning agenda can be very good for staff – that is – provided lunch is not included.

‘…lunch breaks offer an important setting for internal recovery during working days and seem to relate to energy levels at work over time.’

Sianoja et al (2016)

The tale of the woodcutter

Company lunch and learn events are driven by the business imperative to keep production going. However, the tale of the woodcutter is a great example of why this strategy is flawed: The parable of the wise woodcutter tells the story of how much more productive and efficiently the woodcutter could work, when he took the time away from chopping trees, to sharpen his saw.

Now I’ll hazard a guess that he was not trying to sharpen the saw with one hand, whilst still cutting with the other.  I’d like to think that he downed tools, went back to his woodshed – and probably had a sandwich with his feet up – contemplating the job, before resuming his work; and this is what made him more successful!

 So, set aside work time for workplace learning.  Say no to ‘al-desko’ dining and enjoy a restorative lunch break.

Julia Calleja is Business Development Lead for LiveWell Dorset, where her role is to help businesses across Dorset by working with HR and Occupational Health teams to co-create and deliver the beginnings of real health and wellbeing culture change for staff.