Question Of The Week: Do Better Lunch Breaks Make Better Employees?

The hour-long lunch break may be dead, and its demise may be killing employee job satisfaction at American workplaces, according to a recent survey by Tork.

There is a major disconnect between bosses and their employees when it comes to taking a lunch break, according to Tork’s recent “Take Back the Lunch Break” survey.

The hour-long lunch may be dead, and its demise may be killing employee job satisfaction at American workplaces, according to the Tork research. The survey reveals that nearly 90 percent of employees consider the ability to take a lunch break critical when accepting a new job. However, once they are on the job, the average lunch break is less than 30 minutes for more than half of North American workers – barely enough time to purchase a meal, let alone enjoy it.

lunch breaks
(PRNewsfoto/Tork, an Essity brand)

Hesitation to take a full lunch break seems to stem from a lack of communication between employers and employees. While 88 percent of North American bosses think their employees would say they are encouraged to take a regular lunch break, only 62 percent of workers actually feel encouraged – a 26 point gap, showing a real disconnect between management and employees.

The discrepancy can be costing some employers more than they think. Employee engagement in American workplaces has been falling for some time. In fact, Gallup’s 2017 U.S. Employee Engagement tracking study found that only one-third of employees were engaged in their jobs. However, improved employee engagement may be just a lunch break away. According to the Tork study, North American workers who take lunch breaks every day score higher on a wide range of employee engagement metrics, including job satisfaction as well as likelihood to continue working at the same company or recommend their employer to others. With a simple lunch break, employees can become more involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work.

“As the global leader in professional hygiene products and services, the Tork brand is committed to improving workplaces around the world,” said Don Lewis, President of Professional Hygiene at Essity, whose Tork brand manufactures napkins, toilet paper, hand towels and soap used in offices across North America.

“Results from our research show the importance of taking a real lunch break – getting fresh air, exercising, or picking up a lunch that will fuel you for the rest of the day. This simple act of taking a full lunch break can improve how employees feel about their work and their company. The study reveals something managers and companies can start doing tomorrow to make a positive impact on employee engagement.”

Currently, North American workers do not take lunch breaks as frequently as they would prefer due to fear of being judged by their bosses and coworkers. The Tork survey found that those concerns may be justified since:

  • 34 percent of bosses consider how often an employee takes a lunch break when evaluating their job performance.
  • 22 percent of bosses think that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking.
  • 13 percent of North American workers think their coworkers would judge them negatively if they take a regular lunch break.

“Reluctance to take a lunch break is often perceived as a display of dedication to the job,” said Jennifer Deal, Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and Affiliated Research Scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at University of Southern California (USC). “In reality, taking time away for a lunch break can help to reduce stress, increase engagement, and restore energy levels, making employees feel more effective and productive back at the office.”

In an effort to encourage workers to step away from their desks and return from lunch energized, the third Friday of June (June 15, 2018) has been named the annual National Take Back the Lunch Break Day. Click here to learn more about Tork’s Take Back the Lunch Break campaign and take the pledge.

Do employees at your facilities take regular lunch breaks? If so, what does your organization do to encourage them? If not, what actions do you think your company could take to encourage workers to take lunch breaks? Share your thoughts, experiences, or questions in the Comments section below.