Too busy to take a lunch break? Then you need to make some changes, because there’s mounting evidence that working through lunch at your desk is both counter-productive and bad for your physical and mental health. It’s also keeping you from your best networking opportunities.

Get Up, Stand Up, and Get Out

Working through lunch at your desk has become the norm at many offices. It’s reached the point where if one does not eat at one’s desk, one’s reputation as “committed” or “engaged” can suffer. It’s time to destroy that nonsensical point of view.

Sitting is bad for your body. The New York Times reported in April about several studies linking the physical act of sitting itself to a number of very bad health effects. Exercise after work does not effectively mitigate the bad effects of all that sitting. Getting up and going to lunch, even if it’s just walking down a few flights of stairs to the cafeteria, is beneficial.

Breaks Are Key to Productivity

Sure, you’re busy. You feel like you just can’t get everything done and get home before midnight. But a break at mid-day makes you more productive in the afternoon. I can personally attest that getting away from my desk at lunch makes me much sharper and productive right up to quitting time, especially since most of my work is reading, drafting, and redlining contracts, which is often both challenging and dull. Just 20 minutes chatting with friends over lunch plus a walk around the block is enormously helpful.

Break Bread for Fun and Profit

Lunch is the best time to network. People are available and you’re not taking them away from family or leisure time. Eating is about the best thing you can do while chatting someone up, and it’s a lot easier to have casual but useful conversations away from the office.

If you absolutely must, come in a half-hour early and stay a half-hour late. Work an hour at home after the kids go to bed. Get better organized at work to be more efficient. Delegate. Prioritize. But take a lunch break!

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlerone/3609965073/)