Is Your Office Lunch Hour Shrinking or Disappearing? New Survey Shows a Troubling Trend

Posted by on Thursday, February 13th, 2014 with 1 Comments

A new survey of American office workers, commissioned by California-based staffing firm OfficeTeam, reveals a troubling trend when it comes to happiness and efficiency in the workplace: the office lunch hour is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Out of the 413 office workers surveyed, about half (48%) reported their usual lunch break is 30 minutes or less; 14% of all workers take 15 minutes or less. And when workers do take lunch breaks, many of them don’t even leave their desks! Almost 30% continue to work straight through their “break”, while another 27% just surf the web or catch up on Facebook and other social media.

infographic on lunch break survey

American lunch breaks are becoming a thing of the past.
Image source: OfficeTeam

Why is this trend disturbing? Because taking a legitimate break in the middle of the day — one where employees leave their desks, stop working, and eat a wholesome meal — can make a potentially huge impact on their overall health and productivity. Studies continue to reveal that sitting all day can lead to a myriad of health problems and fatigue, and yet more and more of us aren’t even taking half an hour to get up and walk around a little bit.

As University of Toronto Organizational Behavior professor John Trougakos tells Entrepeneur points out, “Fatigue is related to decrements in efficiency, productivity, and accuracy of work… once [our psychological] energy source is depleted, we become less effective at everything we do.” Instead of boosting productivity by taking a real office lunch break, it seems that more of us are staying put in front of our computers.

employee eating lunch at his desk

Sitting all day can have detrimental effects on health and energy levels.
Image source: flickr user katsommers

How can an office create a culture that values breaks? Here are a few key methods:

1) The boss has to take a break, too. Just like with employee wellness programs and other corporate culture initiatives, leadership has to come from the top. When nobody in management takes a lunch break, it might be sending a message to the rest of the staff that successful employees don’t take lunch breaks.

2) Invest in an inviting break room where employees actually want to congregate during the lunch hour — if they don’t feel comfortable, they’ll just stay at their desks.

empty colorful break room

Is your break room a place where employees want to spend time?
Image source: flickr user deryckh

3) Make it a habit to offer catered lunches on busy days. When a deadline is looming or a big project is wrapping up, employees really may not have time to leave the office for a good meal. At the very least, discourage vending machine meals by providing a healthy, wholesome lunch — not only will staffers feel like their hard work is appreciated, but after eating a balanced meal, they’ll likely be more productive and less prone to burnout for the rest of the day.

4) Encourage socialization among employees during office lunch breaks. Companies like Google go for communal tables because they recognize that cross-departmental conversations can lead to innovation, and friendships at work can lead to increased job satisfaction. This is one area where the OfficeTeam survey is encouraging: 42% of workers do spend time socializing with coworkers on their lunch breaks.

5) If your office can’t afford regular catered lunches, plan a group order for healthy takeout meals and invite employees to share their meal together in an empty conference room for a lunch-and-learn.

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One response to “Is Your Office Lunch Hour Shrinking or Disappearing? New Survey Shows a Troubling Trend”

  1. […] you’re busy at work and your lunch hour is cut short, there’s something to be said for being able to grab a quick bite to eat. It’s even better if you’re able to order ahead while you’re on the go. Having your lunch […]