A recent Robert Half/OfficeTeam study found that nearly half of workers either don't take lunch breaks or take breaks that last 30 minutes or less. Many workers also spend their time multitasking while they eat. More than four in 10 (42 percent) reported that, aside from eating, they spend this time socializing with colleagues, while 29 percent admitted they do work during lunch breaks.
Why has the traditional lunch hour diminished so significantly? The obvious culprit is technology. Now that it’s easier to keep typing away while we eat, we feel freer to do so. In fact, only a tiny 1 percent of survey respondents said they do nothing but eat their lunch.
A secondary cause is a dysfunctional culture. Some organizations are so competitive that employees feel they must work around the clock in order to keep their jobs and get ahead. They view taking a well-deserved lunch break as a sign of weakness or laziness.
In a business world that's more stressful than ever, putting in long hours without a break is bad for health, morale and productivity. How can owners and managers help turn things around?
Walk the Talk
Instead of paying lip service to the idea of taking a break, let your employees see you doing it yourself. Come on, it won’t kill you. As Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, says, “Lunch breaks are a time to get in the proper nutrients and give your brain a rest—and that means you’ll have the energy and focus to get through the rest of the day.” This applies to you as well as your team.
Make It a Communal Affair
Put a big table in your break room or kitchen area and hold court there every day at lunchtime. Encourage your employees to join you. Show them that hanging out with colleagues (and yes, even the boss) and interacting on a personal level can be a fun way to pass the workday and get to know each other better. These gatherings can also spark creativity and innovation in your business.
For the rest of my tips, head on over to the AMEX Open Forum.