Out For Lunch? You Could Lose Focus At Work When You Come Back

Posted on August 9, 2013 in Health and Life

By Lata Jha:

Now this is sad. Apparently, the leisurely lunch breaks you take at work do not do you much good. Eating out at a restaurant with a friend could lessen the brain’s aptitude to do detailed tasks back at work well, a new study suggests. If a constructive, fruitful, error-free afternoon is the goal, perhaps workers should consider hastily consuming calories alone at their desks.

Researchers have long thought that dining with friends and colleagues fosters mental well-being, cooperation and creativity. It helps us perform better at our jobs because we come back rejuvenated. To test the effects of a midday social hour on the brain’s capacity to get through the workday, researchers gave 32 women lunch in one of two settings and then tested their mental focus. Half of the women enjoyed meals over a leisurely hour with a friend at a restaurant. The other group picked up their meals from the same restaurant, but had only 20 minutes to eat alone in their offices.


After lunch, the group that ate by themselves performed better on a task that assessed rapid decision making and focus. Measurements of brain activity also suggested that the brain’s error-monitoring system could be running at sub-par levels in those who ate out.

Researchers acknowledge that several factors besides the meal context could have affected the results. For instance, the people who ate in the office had no choice of food and got no opportunity to socialize, read or surf the web.

And the news is not all bad for diners out. Being less rigidly focused could come in handy when handling sticky social situations or solving problems creatively. You might not want to lose focus if you’re navigating control at say, an airport but you could certainly do with some perking up in case you need to come up with a new design or plan for an advertising campaign.