Money & Business

Survey: The Lunch Hour Is Shrinking

By / Jan 23, 2014 (Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Thinkstock)

Nearly half of surveyed American workers said their lunch hour is actually a lunch half-hour. What’s to blame for the shrinking midday break? Office culture, technology, and workers’ own urge to overachieve.

“Lunch hour” rolls off the tongue a lot easier than “lunch half hour,” but the latter may more accurately describe the afternoon meal break that the typical American office worker takes.

According to a survey of more than 400 U.S. office workers, 48 percent said the average length of their lunch break is 30 minutes or less. The survey, released by staffing company OfficeTeam, also found that, aside from eating, workers most commonly socialize with coworkers (42 percent) and do work (29 percent) during their lunch break.

“Lunch breaks aren’t just for eating—they provide time to clear your head and recharge,” Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, said in statement. “Workers also can use their lunch breaks to get to know colleagues better and build their professional networks.”

The amount of break time an organization is required to provide its employees varies from state to state, but how much time employees actually take depends on a number of factors.

“It’s based on the nature of the individual, whether you’re an overachiever who can’t step away, or sometimes it’s a corporate culture, whether or not lunch is even an OK thing to do,” Daryl Pagat, New York branch manager at Robert Half, OfficeTeam’s parent company, said in a recent Bloomberg TV interview.

Workplace culture can also influence whether employees tend to eat out or bring their lunch back to their desk, Pagat said.

But technology plays a role too. “We’re always plugged in nowadays,” said Pagat. “It’s becoming more important than ever to increase your productivity and focus towards the end of the day by just taking a few minutes to completely disconnect in the middle of the day.”

One suggestion, said Pagat, is putting the phone down, walking away from the computer, and running some errands to free up weekend or after-hours time. Also, going for a walk or a light workout can help avoid that “2:30 feeling.”

Pagat stressed the importance of networking with colleagues.

“So often, we’re defined by our four walls,” he said. ”Get out and speak to other people, and maybe you’ll learn of a new initiative or even some openings in your company that might be interesting to you. Walk across the hall and see another department and see some colleagues, catch up on what they’re doing. You learn more about the company. And it’s good for management to have that culture where people are sharing information—it gets more buy-in across the whole organization.”

How do you usually spend your lunch break? Share your story in the comments.

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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