Step Away From Your Office
April 21, 2013

Step Away From Your Office

You know how it is at work sometimes, you just are swamped and stuck at your desk with piles of work to do. In my case, that work consists of grading essays, planning curriculum, editing journals, and other academia-related projects. From 8:00-Noon I am either in class or working diligently. And do not get me started on the interruptions from colleagues. I have been obviously working on some project or grading and a colleague will just step in and start chit-chatting. I appreciate the camaraderie, but I do not always have time for that.

Sometimes it is all a little overwhelming. If I am honest, it is often overwhelming. Sometimes I just have to eat at my desk in order to catch up. Then I feel all enclosed, like I have been in my office for my entire life.

I am not particularly claustrophobic nor do I have a penchant for hyperbole, but I do feel like I have too much to accomplish and too little time. In moments like this, I like to take a brief walk around campus or shut my office door and do some yoga or stretching. Sometimes, I just step outside and sit for a minute elsewhere. Other times all I need is to step out and have lunch away from my office. I have given this up and eaten at my desk just to get my work done, though.

Well, according an article on The Telegraph, when we give up and eat lunch at our desks, we might actually be making work worse. In a research commissioned by the bread brand Kingsmill, and completed by scientists at the University of Sussex, scientists found that “Eating lunch at a work desk or work cafe decreased associations between happiness and work.”

The study also found that workers who ate away from their desks were happier especially if they were able to eat on a beach, at a park bench, restaurant, their homes, or even on public transport. Yes, eating anyplace that was not at work made workers feel a general increase in their wellbeing and made them look more favorably at their job.

To do this research, “University of Sussex scientists measured workers’ happiness eating lunch in different places using a number of different psychological tests…These included self evaluation questionnaires and word association tests…They then assigned a happiness index score to each location…On average, when workers ate at the beach their happiness increased by a score of 17.04, while eating at their desk caused their happiness s core to fall by 1.42.”

Apparently getting out and getting some sun led to a more productive afternoon with a happier worker.

I can definitely understand this. When I have so much to do and am diligently working on all my projects, I sometimes just need a little break. I am not talking about taking off for the entire afternoon. I am not even talking about a long break. Sometimes just a quick hop off campus to a local eatery for no more than 30 minutes can really perk me up and gear me for a seriously productive afternoon.

And I love my office. I have a very cozy office that represents who I am. I spend a lot of time in it, so I want it to be a place I want to be. Sometimes, though, I just need to step away and come back with fresh eyes and thoughts. Lunch out of my office helps me to do just that. I do not need a beach (although that would be nice—too bad I live in a seriously land locked state). I just need a change of scenery.

And I know I am not alone in that. The Kingsmill study proves just that.

Image Credit: Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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