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Monday, September 13, 2010

Is the Lunch Break a Relic?

Has the true lunch break become the exception rather than the rule? Fewer than half of employees take a break from work for lunch during their day, according to a new poll by our research team at Right Management. As Anne Fisher writes in a recent Fortune post: “It's a sad day when leaving your desk for 30 minutes can make you fear being branded a slacker, but welcome to the post-recession world.”

We know employees are under a great deal of pressure. Workloads have increased for most employees and many are logging longer hours. But skipping lunch or being reluctant even to step away from the desk is not a good way to deal with the added pressure. On the contrary, taking a break to have lunch may go a long way toward relieving stress, boosting energy, promoting creativity and improving morale.

However, at some companies there is an unwritten expectation that everyone works through lunch. In conversations with employees at various companies, they’ve spoken about the need to apologize for stepping out. This kind of culture isn’t the way to heighten performance and engagement.

If your employees aren’t taking a lunch break, consider encouraging the practice – it’s about quality of life and quality of work. Just 30 to 60 minutes of free time can feel like a mini-vacation – and employees return refreshed, with new ideas, a clear head and probably a healthier, more positive attitude. Be sure to support them and lead the way by taking lunch yourself. And take time to talk with employees to see if individuals are struggling to manage their workloads. Review priorities and deadlines if workers feel they can’t take a break. An oppressive atmosphere where no one feels they can leave their desk is not one that leads to a satisfied, productive and loyal workforce.

Are you giving your employees a break?

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