Just 1 in 5 workers take actual lunch break: Survey

Managers should pay close attention to changing work habits of employees
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 10/17/2012

Another sign of the high pressure being placed upon today’s workforce is that only one in five employees take an actual lunch break, according to a new survey by Right Management.

Thirty-nine per cent of employees say they lunch at their desk and 28 per cent report seldom taking any break whatsoever. All in all, 81 per cent are not taking what used to be considered a real lunch break, found the survey of 1,000 workers in Canada and the United States.

“We might infer that far fewer employees are feeling comfortable enough with their work loads and demands to actually take time away to enjoy breaks for meals,“ said Michael Haid, senior vice-president for talent management at Right Management. “This is yet another warning sign of the relentless stress experienced by workers in the U.S. and Canada. Of course, they may have lunch, but it doesn’t constitute a real break from work as they must also monitor the phone and email or do any number of other work related tasks while eating.”

An organization’s culture can make employees feel they ought to apologize for stepping out, for even one half-hour, said Haid. But this can have a negative impact on performance, engagement and employee health.

“We are definitely not talking about returning to the days of the three-martini lunch, but have we gone too far in the other direction?” said Haid.

Employees should be encouraged to take a break during the workday and should use the time to refresh and re-energize, even if it means eating at their desk and then taking a walk just to get outside of their immediate work environment.

There are limits to what employees can reasonably handle and often it is the employees themselves who begin to sacrifice their own break times in order to manage their workloads, said Haid.

“So whether the organization is imposing unrealistic workloads or whether employees are progressively giving up break times themselves, leaders need to pay close attention to the changing work habits of their employees,” he said. “They need to understand the early warning signals that overworked employees and impossible workload demands are creating.”

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