We’ve already discussed the personal, professional, and legal ramifications of working through lunch. But what can attorneys do to manage their heavy caseload and a half-hour break?
The same study that concluded skipping meals leads to decreased work performance and depressed moods also described contributing barriers to this behavior.
Here are five ways to encourage healthier lunchtime habits at your firm.
1. Keep “Reserve” Lunches At the Office For Busy Days. Sometimes busy days are unexpected. If you really can’t break from conference calls or meetings at the office, then it’s important to have food stashed at your desk. This means fruit, oatmeal packets, or cans of soup that are easily heated, but healthy.
Stay hydrated and stock the fridge with plenty of fluids (not sugar-based sodas, though). As long as you have plenty of simple lunches on hand, there’s no need to feel guilty for stepping out. It also ensures that you snack less on vending-machine candy and chips, and more on carrots and pretzel sticks.
2. Research Nearby Restaurants. For doctors in the study, one of the inhibitors to eating lunch was the physical distance required to access food in other hospital wings, which included having to walk long distances from the unit where they work to the food areas, waiting for elevators, and waiting in long line ups once they get to the food stations.
The same can be said for the buildings in which lawyers work. Often there are limited choices at close distances and long lines once you arrive. So, do your research for the next best thing. It may be that walking an extra quarter mile to the organic cafe is faster than queuing at the nearest Quiznos.
3. Eat Breakfast. Skipping lunch usually leads to overeating at dinner, and, consequently, weight gain. Avoid hunger altogether by eating regular, equal meals. This includes breakfast—often touted as the most important meal of the day.
In addition, eating breakfast is important to stave off hunger later, when you are forced to eat one of your “reserve” meals during a busy day. In that case, breakfast followed by a can of soup for lunch will more than suffice.
4. Ignore Associate Peer Pressure. The physician participants of the study also identified issues within the culture of medicine as deterrents from taking care of their workplace nutrition needs. For example, many physicians reported that work and their patients come first. Lunch, last (if ever).
Lawyer ethics play a role in many attorneys’ decision to skip meals as well. A client’s needs are very important, especially amind impending deadlines. However, this study clearly demonstrates that a professional’s efficiency and productivity decline when meals are eliminated. Therefore, it follows that the client is best served (especially via lower hourly billing!) by his or her attorney taking lunch.
That being said, the law firm environment can be cut-throat, with associate pressure to arrive early and stay late. Try not to succumb to peer pressure, and take breaks when you need them. When you start taking regular lunches, not only the client, but the firm will be grateful for your improved attitude and performance.
5. Ask Your Firm For Healthy Alternatives To The Vending Machine. Law firms hate spending money. But (hopefully!) they recognize their legal duty to provide meal breaks every five hours. If associates are averaging ten-plus-hour days, your firm may be grateful at the opportunity to preempt and avoid employee lawsuits via access to healthy food options within the office.
If they’re still not keen, calculate the cost of a vending machine and offer a similar-priced alternative. It’s likely office employees will approve of healthier choices at work. After all, you did forward them this blog post, right?