When you hear the term ‘business lunch’, it conjures up images of wheeler-dealers swilling back martinis at some swanky restaurant while they hammer out the details of their next golf game. The thing is, you don’t hear the term ‘business lunch’ that much any more. You’re far more likely to hear the term ‘working lunch’ – which typically features some overworked and stressed-out individual munching on a home-made sandwich, diligently trying to squeeze a few extra scraps of work into their day.

Well, here’s to tell you that those working lunches are Bad Things; and that the old-fashioned business lunches (in a somewhat modified, alcohol-free format) are actually Good Things. There are a number of studies that tell us of the many negative consequences of skipping those mid-morning breaks and lunch hours. The more fatigued we are, the less effective we are at our jobs, and the more prone we are to making costly errors. In addition to its fundamental nutritional value, taking time for lunch is a very important part of our ‘recharging’ process.

It also presents a tremendous opportunity to get to know your coworkers a little bit better – to spend some time with them away from just business issues. It’s a great time to build relationships and establish connections – to meet new people and expand your network of friends. The higher a level you get in an organization, the more important this networking function is to your being able to keep your finger on the pulse of things and stay effective at what you do. As one CEO puts it, “If you ever see me eating alone, you know I’m having a very bad day.”

One of the biggest changes in today’s business lunch has to do with the consumption of alcohol. In the past, having a couple of your favourite cocktails was common during lunch – in some ways even expected. This has now changed. Most etiquette experts agree that the most exotic liquids you’re likely to see in typical business lunches today are flavors of sparkling mineral water.

If the ‘working lunch’ has been your traditional noon activity, begin making a point to go out for lunch at least once a week. Bring one of your coworkers along with you for company. The break will recharge your batteries, and the company will stimulate your brain cells and your opportunities.

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