Is “Lunch Hour” the Biggest Myth of Office Life?

It’s no big surprise to anyone that I am a staunch advocate of the hour lunch break.  And while I make sure to take my full 60 minutes at least 3 days a week (a few days I will bring my lunch for health and money sake), there is no question that many of my co-workers *never* take their full lunch hour.  Like so many in Midtown, they will run down to the nearest deli (in our case, Metro), and bring their boring salad or sandwich back up to their desk, and eat it while checking email or doing work.

This phenomenom was written about on MSNBC.com on Monday:

A study by chicken fast food chain KFC Corp., found that 60 percent of workers in Corporate America actually considered the lunch hour “the biggest myth of office life.”

About 55 percent of workers take a half hour or less for their lunch breaks… and women, who are forever trying to prove themselves in the work world, are not surprisingly more likely to take shorter lunch breaks than men.

Many workplace experts suspect even those workers who are allotted a half hour for lunch, often end up never leaving their desks. The move to shorter or non-existent lunches is in some cases self-imposed.

There are plenty of reasons why not to take a lunch break.  You want to get ahead by showing your boss how good an employee you are, or maybe there’s just not enough time in the day to finish all your work.  I know in some offices there can be tremendous peer pressure if nobody is taking their lunch break.  You don’t want to seem like the one lazy bum who actually eats!

But in truth, we need our lunch break.  If I don’t eat by 12:30, I will pass out… I think.  I’ve never actually tested the theory, since I’m usually chowing down by 12:01.  But more than the threat of malnutrition, you just need to get out of the office for a bit.  And apparently, taking that hour off, may make you *more* productive.  Some justification for your lunch break, after the jump…

According to the same article:

… it turns out giving up your lunch break could actually diminish your productivity, causing you to end up putting in more hours in the long run, not to mention what it does for your health and well being. “Your brain needs to rest. Sometimes, in order to concentrate you have to think about something different, get away from the problem.”

Feel free to print that one out and give it to your boss…

20 Comments

  • I agree. I always take my full hour for lunch. Even if it’s just to get out and read a book in the park.

  • hear hear! two more hours till lunch.

  • But my brain finds deciding where to go for lunch very taxing!

  • But… I dislike my job (yarr for taking a boring but well paying job to save up for grad school) and lunch is the highlight of my work day! I need by burritos, halaal, indian wraps, and more!

  • I do love being an intern at a small company. My boss usually is the one who ask me if I want to go to lunch and many times he pays the tab. mmm…free over $10 lunches.

  • I’m allowed to take a full hour for lunch but rarely take more than 15 minutes. Throughout the day I am constantly snacking on food – granola bars, almonds, fruits – so there’s never a question that I’m not nourishing my mind/body. I usually go out somewhere near here and pick up a full meal and eat at my desk while catching up with emails. I have yet to take more than 30 minutes once for lunch in the 7 months I’ve been here, but that’s just me. Most people in my office take ~45 minutes on their lunch.

  • I demand my full hour lunch break, and cherish every minute of it.

  • Women should get 30 minutes for lunch, as they spend FAR longer chatting in the toilets/coridors/office.

    They should also be paid less.

  • I work in a bizarro firm where EVERYONE takes an hour for lunch. It’s a ghost town between 12-1. Folks either go to eat, go to the gym, out for errands. Many choose to bring back food and eat at their desks, but they’re on the phone, or watching You Tube videos, or emailing. That said, it’s 12:00 and I’m outta here….

  • I wonder why anyone would take lunch in midtown between 12 and 1. It’s such a zoo out there. I prefer to head out at 2. You need to eat breakfast twice to be able to last, but it’s worth it.

  • SMDNY, are they hiring?

    I get 45 minutes for lunch, don’t always take it and YouTube is blocked.

  • I concur. My office is empty from 1-2.

  • I freely give up my lunch hour to sit and read this site. OK, not really. :) But I am eating my lunch while I type this, and unfortunately that’s par for the course for me as people here love to book meetings and conference calls during normal lunch time. Quite sad, actually.

  • I just started a new job, and at my old job we got about an hour and a half for lunch. It was great. I usually went to the gym or took long, leisurely lunches. Now I supposedly get an hour but few people seem to take the full time, and instead just grab something quick and eat it at their desks. It makes me so sad.

  • Back at my old job, they used to give us TWO hour lunch breaks. Ah, those halcyon days……unfortunately, they took ‘em away after a few employees with poor listening comprehension decided that two hours really meant two-and-a-half, and planned their schedules accordingly.

    I’m sure if we consult enough evolutionary psychologists, we can find some justification for lunch breaks from our great great great great great great grandparents and such. Really boss! Our ancestors needed lunch breaks too! Y’know, those tiny dinosaurs, tough stringy meat, really hard to digest, all that heartburn………

  • you see the trick is to take your whole hour lunch break. then come back with food and eat it at your desk.

  • I work for finance, while we are allowed an hour for lunch, most people just run to the Cafeteria or corner deli and eat at their desk. I’m pretty sure this is the case for most workers in finance.

  • I take an hour lunch to sit at bryant park or do a little window shopping and then eat my food at my desk when I get back.

  • During lunch I Taser homeless people sat under ATM’s

  • Rudy McBagel, I’m surprised no one said anything about your earlier comments [which made me laugh].

    The individuals in my office who take 15 minute lunch breaks, due it purely for show. Most of the older women mull around in the kitchen for an hour+.

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