We're all expected to do our best on the job and continuously aim to improve our performance. And while there are several tactics we can employ to increase our productivity, there's one trick that's proven quite effective at helping workers boost their output: taking a lunch break.

In fact, almost 90% of North American workers say that taking time out for lunch helps them feel refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of their day, according to a new study by Tork. Furthermore, workers who take lunch consistently are more likely to be engaged at work and report higher levels of job satisfaction.

Man in professional clothing reading a newspaper on an outdoor bench while holding a sandwich.

Image source: Getty Images.

The problem, however, is that 38% of workers don't feel encouraged to take a lunch break, and 13% expect their colleagues to judge them negatively for taking time out on the regular in the middle of the day. And such, many employees instead get into the habit of eating lunch at their desks while hammering away -- if they even manage to get some food into their systems at all.

Unfortunately, the lunch break stigma isn't just a matter of perception. A good 34% of managers consider the frequency at which employees take lunch breaks when evaluating their job performance. And 22% regard employees who regularly take lunch as less hardworking than their counterparts who work through it instead. It's this attitude, however, that's so harmful to workers, because it greatly increases their chances of burning out and having their performance suffer as a result.

Working a lunch break into your schedule

There are several mental and physical benefits to taking a lunch break, so if you've struggled to escape the office in the past, it's time to change your ways. You can start by blocking off time for lunch on your calendar, thereby setting the expectation that you're not available then. This is especially important if you tend to get frequent mid-day meeting requests.

Next, figure out what you'll do with your lunch break. You might choose to unwind with a book at your local park, or use that time to be productive and run errands. It doesn't really matter how you spend your lunch break as long as you get a chance to clear your head and take some time away from your desk.

Keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to spend money on food to get a real lunch break. When the weather is nice, pack a sandwich and find an outdoor spot to chow down. When it's cold out, you might pop over to a local library or even eat in your car. Either way, you'll achieve the ever-important goal of taking a break from work and giving your mind a chance to recharge.

As far as backlash goes, prove to your boss that taking lunch won't impact your performance by keeping up with your work when you are at your desk. This could mean getting better about scheduling tasks so that you stay ahead of deadlines, or even working a little later to make up for the time you spend taking lunch during the day. But if you show your manager that your output doesn't decline as a result of your daily breaks, your boss will be more likely to not hold them against you.

Supporting your employees in taking lunch

As a manager, it's important to recognize the need for workers to get some mental relief from the daily grind. If lunch is frowned upon at your firm, be the person to put an end to that practice. Encourage your workers to take breaks as needed, and pay attention to individual output more so than time spent in a chair. Chances are, you'll come to find that your workers' performance hold steady or even improve once they get into the habit of taking lunch.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with setting standards as to what you feel constitutes a reasonable break. Furthermore, if you find that some workers abuse the privilege, you have every right to lay some ground rules on an as-needed basis. The key, however, is to support your employees in taking the breaks they need to stay productive, because if you do, ultimately, everybody will win.

So there you have it: Taking lunch is good for employees, and it can even benefit employers as well. No matter which side of the coin you're on, it pays to embrace the notion of the lunch break -- and factor it into your regular work schedule.