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Better Lunch At Your Desk: Eating Out Decreases Work Performance

Update Date: Jul 31, 2013 05:04 PM EDT

Lunching outside of the office may harm work performance, according to German scientists.

Researchers at Humboldt University at Berlin, Germany say that lunching at a restaurant with friends reduces cognitive control more than lunching alone at an office desk.

In the study, participants either ate a solitary meal alone at their desk in a restricted amount of time, or took a short walk to a restaurant for an hour-long lunch with a friend.

Researchers noted that all meals were identical in the kind and amounts of food consumed.

The study revealed that after the meal, participants who had a restaurant lunch were calmer and sleepier than those who had their lunch at their desks.

Participants who went out for lunch also scored worse on tests measuring cognitive control. Neurophysiological measurements also revealed that restaurant diners also had decreased cognitive control of performance and error monitoring processes.

Because the meals differed in many ways including the presence of a friend, environment and lack of time restrictions, researchers say that it is impossible to pinpoint which of the variables most affected work performance.

"It is impossible to specify at this point, which of the variables above are crucial for the effects observed in our study," researchers wrote in the study.

"Reduced cognitive control is a disadvantage when close self-monitoring of performance and detailed attention to errors is required, such as in numerical processing. In other situations, an attenuation of cognitive control may be advantageous, such as when social harmony or creativity is desired," they added.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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