Do you scarf down a sandwich as you punch away at the computer? Do you hurriedly grab a bite and slink back to your desk?
Experts believe it’s important to make the most of lunch hour as it keeps you healthy, stress-free and leads to an increase in productivity and creativity. But there’s more to lunch break than just food and relaxation. You can also use the mid-day meal slot to expand your network. A 30-minute lunch break may not seem like much, but it adds up – to 2.5 hours per work week and 125 hours a year.
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, believes you need to be “as strategic about lunch hour as you are about your day in general”. Here’s how you can use the lunch hour to network with people you know and connect with those you don’t. Play lunch rouletteEver noticed how we end up spending lunch hour with the same co-workers again and again? This means that you may not have had a face-to-face conversation more than half the people in the office. Playing lunch roulette – spending lunch break with someone new once a week at least – will help you connect with the person who sits five cubicles away. Ryan Kahn, a career coach and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad, writes, “You are guaranteed to learn something new about your organisation or industry, and may even make some new mentors and friends in the process.”
Organise a ‘Lunch and Learn’It’s more fun than it sounds, honestly. Get your supervisor’s go-ahead for this once-a-month plan and get volunteers from any department to teach their co-workers something. It could be work-related, but it could also be completely random like making a no-bake strawberry cheesecake. You’ll meet people from across departments and have a lot of fun.
Invite people overThis can be a fun way to meet new people, in the same domain or in others. Ask co-workers to invite new people – doctors, artists, teachers, IT professionals, media professionals - to the office for lunch. If everyone invites one person a month, everyone’s networks will expand constantly. Make sure you clear this with your supervisor and HR department.
Set up a Finer Things ClubTake a page out of The Office’s playbook and establish a Finer Things Club. Like in the popular serial, the aim is to meet once a month to discuss art, music, poetry and celebrate culture in a very “civilized” way. But naturally, there's no space for “paper, plastic and work talk”. Find like-minded co-workers and make your lunch break one that others will want to be a part of.
Catch up with old friendsLunch break is the perfect time to catch up with friends who work nearby. Dropping in at his or her office for lunch once in a while will give you a good opportunity to catch up and socialise. The bonus is that you end up meeting a few others in the cafeteria. Try and shuffle between friends, and over time, you will have quite a few new people in your network.
Set up a lunch clubA 2008 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that socialising with colleagues makes us more productive. Let’s Lunch, an app that lines up your lunch slots with people you should know, may not be in India yet, but you can try your own version. Start an official lunch club that meets once a month for a meal. Invite co-workers and friends, their co-workers and friends, and you’ll soon have a large group. Decide on a potluck-style meal or lunch at a café; it’s sure to gain you friends and connections. Keep your eyes open for any local networking lunches in your town.
Take your team to lunchThere’s no better way for managers and supervisors to bond with their teams. Apart from talking clients, office details and deadlines, you and the team are sure to end up speaking about family, hobbies and other non-work related things. Time away from work provides an opportunity to get to know one another on a deeper level. Over time, this can foster cooperation and competition, leading to higher levels of engagement, productivity and growth.
At a time when denying yourself a proper lunch break is seen as “commitment to work”, it’s important to create a lunch culture at work. Build a community around lunch hour – a group can eat in a nearby garden, another can go for a walk outside while some people head to a restaurant. By creating a lunch community, you make sure that you’re not the odd one out. And of course, everyone benefits. Networking is one of the best ways to grow your career. Another great strategy? Don’t stop your search to #FindBetter. Start here.