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Give ‘Em a Break: Employees Want Their Lunch Break Back

Even though employees value lunch breaks, many don’t take them. What can employers do to address this and make sure their workforce is energized in the afternoon?

A new survey shows the vast majority of employees take into account whether they get a lunch break when scouting for a job. Once they land that gig, however, results also show that more employees are scarfing down a sandwich rather than leisurely dining on dim sum.

“Take Back the Lunch Break” shows that 27 percent of the 1,600 North American survey participants don’t take a lunch break each workday. The study notes that going out for lunch helps workers feel more engaged and productive, said Jennifer J. Deal, senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and affiliated research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California.

“If you think about athletes, there’s halftime for a reason, right? Because halfway through any endeavor, you need a break. You need to take time to breathe and not continually engage in the activity,” said Deal, who partnered with workplace hygiene company Tork for the study. “For people in the workplace, taking a lunch break is just that. It’s halftime.”

Employees who took a lunch break every day scored higher than those who didn’t in the survey results for job satisfaction, the likelihood to continue working at the same company, and recommending their employer to others.

Deal said employees want to be perceived as hard-working so they bypass lunch and power through the day.

There may be some truth to that, given that survey results show 22 percent of supervisors think employees who take regular lunch breaks are less hardworking.

Employees and employers can nibble away at the problem. Deal recommends that employees pay attention to their energy levels to notice when they start to get drained. And employers can help change the culture at the company.

“You need to model the behavior and not reward the person who never takes breaks. So, it’s a matter of modeling behavior, encouraging behavior and rewarding behavior,” Deal said.

Aysha Ashley Househ is a Workforce editorial associate. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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