About Us  |  About Cheetah®  |  Contact Us

Study reveals only one-in-five employees take actual lunch break

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 percent of employees say they lunch at their desk. But 28 percent report seldom taking any break whatsoever. All in all, 81 percent are not taking what used to be considered a real lunch break.

During September and October Right Management polled 1,023 North American workers and asked: “Do you regularly take a break for lunch?” Nineteen percent responded that they almost always take a lunch break; 39 percent said yes, but that they usually stay at their desk; 14 percent said only from time to time and 28 percent said they seldom if ever take a lunch break.

“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.”

According to Haid, an organization’s culture often makes employees feel they ought to apologize for stepping out for even a half hour. “One has to ask if such pressure without any let up actually benefits the individual or the organization. I mean, does it really improve performance? What are the longer term consequences for employee health and engagement?”

“We are definitely not talking about returning to the days of the three-martini lunch,” continued Haid, “but have we gone too far in the other direction? Sure, most organizations are shifting into new employment models made possible by technology and workers are adapting. But taking a break during the work day is still beneficial. Employees 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…if only for a short time.”

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, believes 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. They need to understand the early warning signals that overworked employees and impossible work load demands are creating.”

Source: Right Management; www.right.com.