No Free Lunch does not mean Don’t Take Lunch

Do you take a lunch break from work?

Based on recent studies conducted in the last 24 months, many don’t.  Are you surprised?

I am not surprised, mostly because I know that I usually mix up a protein shake and keep on plugging away at my desk, which sort of straddles the fence on this one – eating lunch but not taking a break.

History tells of a time when employees had to fight for meal/break policies that exist today.  Not much fighting any longer, as CareerBuilder found in 2010 that 18% of workers report always eating at their desks and 16% said they skip lunch in favor of work. A third of employees said they take lunch in under a half hour (hello Tums)!  More recently in July and August of 2011, Right Management came up with similar results polling 751 North American workers asking, “Do you regularly take a break for lunch?” Results: 35% said “Yes, almost always”; 34% said “Yes, but usually stay at my desk”; and about a third said either “Only from time to time” (15%) or “Seldom, if ever” (16%).

With many corporate environments expectation that more people are expected to work more with less, workloads are higher and many people don’t feel like they can take the time to eat.  “Many of the organizations have been downsized, and as a result, folks have significantly more responsibility,” said Ron Sims, a vice president at Right Management. “They don’t want to be seen as somebody who is not fully contributing.”

What is the downside to all of this lunch skipping?  You might think that you are getting an extra hour per day, but in reality you are burning yourself out.  Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania said “There is support for this idea that taking these breaks can actually help you do better and focus better on your work and have new ideas.”

Now, some companies are encouraging employees to leave and eat lunch or get some exercise to promote better health and overall creativity.  Tony Schwartz, energy expert and author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, encourages workers to take back their lunch.  His web site The Energy Project has solutions, tools and tips for fueling a fully engaged workforce.

Bottom line?  Think about this before you skip lunch again – you could be robbing yourself of the the chance to refuel, recharge and to fully engage the second half of your day.

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