Seal found that most home workers don’t take proper breaks, even though employed British workers are entitled to a minimum of 20 minutes.
It has taken a decade of working at home, but my body and my brain finally accept that, like a dog or a child, I need a walk after lunch. Without one I will eat more and waste time online.
The walk helps digestion, gives me energy, vitamin D and a new perspective to take back to my desk. If I can work an errand into the stroll, there’s the bonus of self-satisfaction. Of course there are days when I read a magazine and eat a pack of biscuits, but a decent lunch followed by a short walk is the rule.
The post-lunch lull is a feeling familiar to most office workers. You ate lunch, quickly. Back at your desk, your brain is a fuzz of tuna mayo baguette or Pret macaroni cheese.
Somehow the food you ate to give you the energy to survive the afternoon has instead rendered you sloth-like. Your lethargic claws scratch at the keypad as you gaze across the office, searching for the energy to get up and walk to the printer.
Your saviour, and the only way you’ll be able to run your 3pm meeting without falling asleep on your feet, becomes apparent: coffee and three cookies.
Working at home through the winter
If you’ve experienced these symptoms and are now working from home, let me introduce you to the WFH winter version. You eat four slices of toast with your soup, two while you’re heating the soup and two dunked into it.
But you didn’t notice eating anything because you were simultaneously checking last month’s numbers and answering queries on Slack.
There’s leftover crumble in the fridge so you slam that in the microwave and burn your mouth shovelling it down. Despite all the food, you’re cold because you don’t want to run the heating all day. You climb into bed with your laptop to work on a presentation. A phone call from school wakes you up. You’ve missed pick up.
A recent survey conducted by Slimming World found that during lockdown, two in three adults (65 per cent) had difficulty managing their weight.
Meanwhile, more than half of adults (53 per cent) said lockdown had made them feel worse about their bodies, according to a poll by the Commons Women and Equalities Committee. As a winter of working from home beckons for many, the challenges will persist.
Poor eating is a productivity killer
There are so many ways to lose and waste time when working from home, and eating poorly is a prime productivity killer. As a nation we’re known for eating “al desko”, but at home the drawbacks of not taking a break intensify.
You’ve already done less activity than any commuter. The option to make yourself a healthy and interesting lunch is there, but so is the leftover pizza.
When journalist Rebecca Seal was researching her new book Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) she found that many solo workers were desperate for advice on how to make quick but interesting meals (not toast or cereal) and how not to overeat. As a food writer and long-time home worker she was easily able to respond.
Seal found that most home workers don’t take proper breaks, even though employed British workers are entitled to a minimum of 20 minutes for any shift. The irony is that not making time to rest and eat kneecaps your productivity.
Give yourself a break
“There’s something very grounding and centring about the process of chopping, slicing and assembling and it’s a great way to give yourself the kind of break where your body and brain are absorbed in something else,” she writes.
“But I think it also demonstrates a level of respect for yourself that slamming something in a plastic tray into the microwave doesn’t quite reach.”
Time and money operate differently when you’re working from home. Stress around these two factors can fire the hormone cortisol and lead to hunger, especially for sugar and fat, but we need a variety of nutrients to keep our blood sugar steady and our brain and gut happy. It’s fine to treat yourself when you really need to, but giving in to this behaviour frequently will lead to weight gain and its many associated illnesses.
I still battle with biscuits and use date and oat-based energy balls or rice cakes smeared in peanut butter or tahini as substitutes. I’d never thought of Seal’s now-obvious suggestion – she has similar biscuit issues – of keeping them in the freezer.
My other favourite tip of hers is to imagine an employer saying you aren’t entitled to a meal break. “You’d be incensed,” writes Seal. “We shouldn’t do that to ourselves.”
Rebecca Seal’s tips for solo lunching
- Don’t prepare everything from scratch. Add fresh ingredients to ready-made, such as salad leaves, cucumber, fennel or radish to a fish finger sandwich.
- Keep long-lasting vegetables in the fridge like fennel, sweetheart cabbage, cucumber, carrots, endive or chicory, green beans, broccoli. Then add a hit of fresh, raw or lightly cooked veg to meals, even if the bulk is from a tin or jar.
- Chuck in a handful of frozen vegetables (eg: peas to pasta pesto or spinach to poached egg on toast) to raise the nutritional profile of the meal and add fibre.
- Use big flavours – chillies, capers, strong cheese, anchovies, garlic, ginger.
- Extra ingredients ramp up nutrient levels – a pinch of ground almond in pasta sauces; peanuts, sesame seeds or eggs into Asian-style noodles, pumpkin seeds or nuts into salads.
- Batch cook pasta bakes, soups, curries, fish cakes, even baked potatoes.
(Article source: Inews)