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Want Happier, More Productive Employees? Have Them Take a Lunch Break

  • Workers often skip a lunch break due to concerns that their manager will penalize them or think they’re unproductive
  • Several studies have shown that dedicated lunch breaks are associated with stress reduction, greater productivity, and other benefits
  • Employers can lead by example by taking visible breaks or encouraging work respites

Visit a company’s break room around midday and it’s very likely that you’ll find it empty. It has become increasingly common for employees to eat lunch at their desks instead of taking a dedicated break for the meal, with one study finding that 62 percent of employees don’t take a lunch break.

Employees may skip a lunch break in an attempt to catch up on work or maximize their productivity. Yet this strategy can often be counterproductive.

The lost lunch break is part of a larger trend toward overwork. American employees collectively let hundreds of millions of vacation days go unused each year, are often reluctant to use sick days, and have even been working longer hours during remote work arrangements. Workers are often concerned that their managers will penalize them or see them as less productive if they utilize their breaks or time off, even though they are granted these benefits as part of their employment.

Although it offers only a brief respite from the daily grind, a dedicated lunch break has been associated with multiple benefits. These include higher job satisfaction, greater productivity, improved relationships among team members, and lower stress levels. Lunch breaks can also lead to improved health, as workers who don’t stop for a meal are more likely to snack on unhealthy foods during the day.

Employers can adopt several strategies to encourage workers to take a midday break. The most effective way is simply communicating with employees that they should go to lunch, while also leading by example by taking their own lunch break or setting up an e-mail auto-reply indicating that they’re on break. Employers can also avoid scheduling meetings around lunchtime, encourage casual lunch get-togethers, and make the break room a welcoming place.

Companies can also invite workers to take non-lunch breaks. These options could include time for exercise, walking groups, or even brief naps.

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