This article was published on August 14, 2020

Don’t kill your lunch break because of COVID-19 — use it to advance your career

Don’t kill your lunch break because of COVID-19 — use it to advance your career
Yessi Bello Perez
Story by

Yessi Bello Perez

Former Senior Writer, Growth Quarters

To say that 2020 has been a strange year is undoubtedly the understatement of the century.

As a result of COVID-19, we’ve had to change and adapt at lightning speed — in most cases swapping offices for spare rooms (if you’re one of the lucky ones), and kitchen tables (or beds) for desks.

These changes come with their own challenges. For example, struggling to stay focused and motivated when working remotely, dealing with countless video calls, and communicating effectively with peers and managers from a distance. The list goes on.

[Read: 7 tips on lockdown career advancement — for employees and managers]

Working from home can also mean you’re working longer hours and even though there’s plenty of literature to suggest that humans work more effectively when they take timely breaks, it seems that most workers are foregoing them.

A recent study by Liberty Games (also covered by Stylist) found that 41% of British people were likely to work through their lunch breaks while working remotely — and this isn’t OK.

Here’s why:

  • It’s your right. Unless your contract states otherwise, you’re entitled to a lunch break. Again, it depends on your agreement but most lunch breaks aren’t paid, so why on earth would you want to work for free for an hour each day? Remember you’re giving your employer 5 hours of your time every single week. FOR FREE.
  • It’s actually good for you. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that regular breaks are good for your concentration levels — and lunch, my friend, is no different.
  • You need to eat. It’s so easy to sit at your desk all day and forget to do so, but guess what: it’s not good for you. So, don’t do it. Get up, make something delicious, eat it, and savor it.

Try and be as organized as you can. So, meal plan for the week and if you’re able to, make your lunch the night before or make sure there’s plenty of leftovers from dinner so you don’t have to worry about cooking.

The choice is yours … but make lunch count

Planning is key — or else you’ll get bored easily and be tempted to get back to work as soon as possible.

So here’s how to make the most of your break and how to use this time to advance your career.

  • Exercise during lunch … but make it fun

Have you ever wondered whether you’d enjoy running or pilates? Well, now’s the time to find out.

The likelihood is that you’re probably spending more time sitting down (because, well, your commute is probably a thing of the past) so there’s never been a better time to get moving and why not have fun while you do.

Think about what kind of exercise you enjoy and try and find online classes. You don’t even have to spend, you can find plenty of free exercise and stretching routines online. If you go down this route, try and watch them on a different device, such as your smartphone, to make sure you reduce work-related screen time.

If classes aren’t your thing, create your own workout routine. Personally, I’m a big fan of the sanity squat. This way, you can get your daily exercise done and also get those endorphins going, meaning you’ll return to feeling happier and refreshed — and be way more productive.

  • Do your house chores … but quickly 

Have you ever stopped to think about how much time house and life admin steals away from you? No, me neither, but I guarantee it’s (probably) a lot.

So, even though this might sound weird, you should totally consider taking care of household chores during your lunch break.

By getting this out of the way at lunch, it means you’ll be able to focus on work during working hours.

I mean, I know I’ve certainly been distracted by laundry while working from home.

  • Dream … but make your desired career a reality

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with daydreaming or thinking about how you can change and improve certain processes or solve big problems.

The issue here is that many of us spend way too much time thinking about how we can do something as opposed to actually doing it.

So, if you’ve been thinking about changing careers or starting a new business, use your lunch break to plan it out.

Say you spend 15-20 minutes eating, that means you still have approximately 40 minutes to sort yourself out — which by the way, should be plenty to work on your online portfolio, trawl through jobs, or improve your CV.

If you take that forty minutes a day, by the end of the week, you would have spent 200 minutes working towards your next career move or goal.

  • Unwind … but learn

Use part of your lunch break to learn a new skill.

This doesn’t have to be something obscure or complex, it can be as easy as watching online tutorials about useful things you’re interested in.

A few examples — to inspire you — can include SEO, email marketing, writing for the web, honing your pitch skills. You name it, and I guarantee you’ll find a credible source online.

If you have the budget, spend some time researching suitable — and accredited — courses and get learning.

You don’t have to restrict your learning to just job-related skills. In fact, you can always use this time to learn completely new skills that may eventually inspire a career change or a side hustle.

  • Network … but be smart 

Thanks to COVID-19, offline events are a thing of the past — at least for now.

However, this doesn’t mean you should put your networking on hold.

There are still plenty of things you can do to put yourself out there and meet people with similar or relevant interests.

If you’re really passionate about something, find a relevant online community to plug into.

You’ll get to delve into something you’re passionate about and forge important connections in that space.

Ultimately, I’m not advocating that you spend every waking second planning your career because it’s also important to relax.

But, the bonus of doing this kind of planning during your lunch is that once work is over, you can focus on things you enjoy doing. Picture that mojito.

So you like our media brand Growth Quarters? You should join our Growth Quarters event track at TNW2020, where you’ll hear how the most successful founders kickstarted and grew their companies.

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