It's not only our lunch hour that's suffering. The Energy Project conducted a poll of over a thousand people through the Huffington Post and found that many rarely get a true break from the hustle and bustle of their workday, even when they're out of the office.
Out of 1,200 respondents, 60 percent said they spend less than two waking hours a day completely disconnected from their email. The email-free time was less than half an hour for one out of five.
"I came to the conclusion that the acceleration of the pace at which we live was taking a kind of invisible toll on us," Schwartz says, concerning his research on worker happiness and productivity.
This is the basis of Schwartz' work and the initiative to take back the lunch hour: time is finite, but energy is a renewable resource. Manage energy well and we can be more productive, in less time, and be happier to boot.
People think that by working through lunch, they'll be able to finish their work sooner, but that is usually not the case, Schwartz says.
"People say they don't have time to take a lunch break, but that's a misunderstanding of time. Working through lunch does not give you an extra hour of work because if you work too continuously, you do lower quality work and are less efficient at doing it!" he says.
So what's the solution? Short periods of intense, uninterrupted work time, followed by restorative breaks. And no, checking your personal email doesn't constitute a "break." What you're looking for is an adequate period of rest that restores your mind and body.
Research on productivity and attention provides the following tips on how to make your break a truly restful one:
Chat It Up or Go Solo -- It's important to get a break from the kind of work you do all day long, Schwartz says, so if you work alone, go get some face time with friends or colleagues, a little water cooler chit chat. If your work involves dealing with people all day, go take some solo downtime to recharge your batteries.
Get Some Green -- a study from the University of Michigan found that your brain gets more of break by taking a walk in a green environment, like a park, than if you took a stroll in an urban environment. In the study, those who took a walk in a park performed better at cognitive tasks than their urban peers.
Interval Training for Your Brain -- The mind and body naturally cycles between productivity peaks and lulls, Schwartz says, so play to this rhythm. Try to work intensely, with no interruptions for 90 minutes, and then take a break. Recharge and repeat.