Scientists have found that individuals who eat lunch at their desk are more productive in the afternoon, compared to those who go out for a leisurely meal.

Staff who spent an hour out to lunch at a restaurant with friends returned to work less focused on the job and less wakeful. They had reduced brain function, making it harder to tackle detailed tasks and spot mistakes.

While those who ate at their desk were mentally sharper. And the difference in performance cannot be attributed to what was drunk during the meal, because both groups of participants ate similar food and abstained from alcohol.

On the plus side, those who left the workplace during lunchtime returned more relaxed and upbeat.

The researchers, led by Dr Werner Sommer from the Humboldt University in Berlin, said the results suggested lunches should be tailored according to the workplace or intended outcome.

They said: ‘We conclude that the restaurant meal – but not the office meal – appears to be relaxing and seems to reduce cognitive control processes for a while.

‘One may have expected more “positive” effects on the psychological processes of the participants who ate in the restaurant situation. However, the attenuation of cognitive control(??) may be negative for certain purposes but not all.

‘For example, reduced cognitive control is a disadvantage when close self-monitoring of performance and detailed attention to errors is required, such as in laboratory and factory work or numerical processing.

‘In other situations, an attenuation of cognitive control may be advantageous, such as when social harmony or creativity is desired.’ The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, the first group ate a solitary meal

alone at their desk in a restricted amount of time, while the others took a short walk to a restaurant for an hour-long lunch with a friend.

The research found: ‘The restaurant meal – as compared to a plain office meal – had a relaxing effect at the conscious level, as reflected in subjective evaluations.

The experimental effects in the post meal sessions can be best summarised as a reduction of cognitive control on the performance level while the neurophysiological results indicate a slackening of cognitive control related to performance and error monitoring processes.’

Since the meals differed in many ways, including the chatting to a friend, fresh environment and lack of time restrictions, the team said: ‘It is impossible to specify at this point, which of the variables above are crucial for the effects observed in our study.’

source:  Dailymail UK