Take Back Your Lunch Break At Work

by Vault Careers | October 25, 2011

  • My Vault

What are your lunch plans tomorrow? If you’re like many workers today, you do not have any. You’ve decided to skip going out with co-workers and classed it up a bit by enjoying your meal at the newest restaurant in town – “Your Desk.”

A recent survey by workforce consultants Right Management showed that 34% of workers usually eat lunch at their desks, while 16% rarely even take any lunch break.  Of those who do, 15% only left for lunch on occasion while 35% said they always make sure to take a lunch break.  Why are workers forgoing their lunches?  Experts say that while there was an increase in layoffs as a result in the economy, there was not a decrease in the amount of work that needed to be completed. 

“Sure, workers may feel devoted to their work, which is fine, but given the level of stress in today’s workplace I wonder if the reluctance to take a break is an expression of devotion or a negative consequence of the unrelenting pressure some organizations are exerting on their workforces to get more done with fewer resources,” said Michael Haid, Senior Vice President Talent Management at Right Management. “Taking time away from one’s desk for lunch would help reduce tension and boost energy…but our research results might lead us to ask…is that still a real option for people now?”

Vault.com’s own career expert Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio believes that because workers feel overburdened, they tend to perform tasks through their lunch break with the hopes that they won’t have to stay at work later in order to complete their work.  However, that almost never works out.  Without a break, mistakes pile up and employees tend to stay later as a result, nullifying the perceived advantages of working through lunch.  Experts agreed with Haid’s belief that a break of some kind is necessary to achieve desired results in the workplace, but they disagree with the assertion that such a break is not an option anymore. 

Connie encourages workers to take their lunch breaks. In addition to the fact that a break from the office monotony is important for the reasons stated by Right Management, Connie states that getting out and about and meeting people for lunch helps the average worker network. If you stay at your computer all day at work, chances are you might end up staying at the same job for the rest of your life. In order to go places, networking is the key to future success and there is no better time to network than at lunch.

Connie also stated that a consistent lunch break won’t sound off any alarms should one suddenly go out for a job interview in the guise of taking a lunch break. Supervisors and co-workers are more aware of your actions than one would think. A sudden change in your behavior will be noticed, suspicions will be raised and rumors may be started as to why you are suddenly taking a lunch break once a week. There is no need for that.

There is also this simple logic. Some companies do not pay an employee for a lunch break, so why work for free? There is no reason why you shouldn’t take some time for yourself and relax a bit before going back to the daily grind. You earned it. Don’t cheat yourself out of something you deserve.

And if that is not enough to convince you, it is also noted that eating at your desk leads to overeating, because the distractions from work cause you not to realize that you’re full until you’ve eaten too much. Do you notice how many trips you take to the snack and soda machine at work?  Taking into account that elevated stress levels lead to increased cortisol, which leaves fat accumulation in the body, and you now have a new reason to step away from your desk a little more often.

Go out and grab a bite to eat with friends. Take a real lunch break. Your mind, your body, and in the long run, your employers will thank you.

--Jon Minners, Vault.com

Filed Under: Networking | Workplace Issues

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