Over the years, studies (like this one, and this one, and this one) have consistently shown that taking a lunch break makes employees more productive and prevent burnout at work (not to mention making them happier and healthier in general). ezCater’s most recent research backs that up.
We found that the overwhelming majority (78%) of employees across the board believe that taking a lunch break away from their desks improves job performance. And this belief is prevalent across all kinds of jobs, including 77% of office workers, 78% of healthcare workers and 71% of retail/grocery/warehouse workers.
America’s workers aren’t taking the breaks they need
Despite believing that lunch is a good thing, people still seem unable to consistently take a full lunch break at work. 1 in 10 employees NEVER take a break away from their desk, and the vast majority of employees — 7 in 10 — eat at their desk while working at least 1 day a week.
Younger employees are the most likely to be “desktop diners”, working through their lunch, while half of older workers say they never eat lunch at their desks.
Workers in many European countries would be horrified to learn how many Americans eat at their desks or skip lunch altogether. After all, in countries like France, Italy, Greece, and others, the standard lunch break runs from 90 minutes to 2 hours. In fact, until 2021 and the need to impose Covid restrictions, it was technically illegal for French workers to eat at their desks.
Why aren’t workers taking a lunch break?
So, what’s the main thing keeping younger Americans from taking a proper lunch break? Too much work.
- 21% said they don’t haven’t enough time in their day to get their work done if they take a break.
- 1 in 5 said they avoid breaks so they can finish their workday as soon as possible. > (27% of Gen Z
- 19% of Gen Z and 26% of millennials said there are too many meetings/meetings during the lunch hour.
- 1 in 4 Gen Z workers are worried that their employer won’t look favorably on them taking a lunch break.
Maybe employers would be more apt to encourage employees to take a regular lunch break if they understood all the ways taking lunch makes people more productive.
How does a lunch break make you better at your job? Let us count the ways
There are many mental, physical, emotional, and social benefits to taking a lunch break. Here are a few of the most commonly accepted benefits along with some key findings from ezCater’s Lunch Report.
1. Lunch provides a necessary and restorative break
Life is pretty hectic for everyone these days. It’s super easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, and fail to take time to pause and recover from whatever the day has thrown at you. A lunch break is an important opportunity to chill out. Our survey showed that:
- 40% of employees said taking a lunch break makes them feel less stressed
- 39% attribute lunch to better work/life balance
- 39% feel more productive and able to accomplish more work
- 37% feel less burnt out
2. Lunch clears your head and can boost creativity
We’ve all experienced the midday slump. Your morning coffee is starting to wear off, and you suddenly hit a wall. A lunch break can get you back on your feet so you can be more productive later in the day. Our respondents said that a lunch break provides them with better mental clarity (47%), and leads to more creativity in the second half of their workday (25%).
3. Lunch can help mitigate fatigue and pain
Sitting has been called the new smoking in terms of how dangerous it is to our health. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time raises the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. Even without those life-threatening issues, the everyday aches, pains, and general fatigue associated with desk work are bad enough. A lunch break is a great opportunity to get up and move around. And it doesn’t take much to make a big difference. Just moving around for a few minutes or doing 10 seconds of stretching can help combat hours of sitting at a desk.
4. Lunch helps make important team connections
Lunch at work isn’t just about giving your brain a break or getting up and moving. Our survey found that about 3 in 10 employees said they looked forward to the social connection that comes with eating lunch with their coworkers. And this connection can enhance a team’s ability to collaborate well. A Cornell University study that studied firefighter platoons found that eating together improved job performance over individuals who dined alone. “Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work,” said the study’s author, Kevin Kniffin. “From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplaces.”
5. Lunch makes people happy
Finally, almost half (46%) of our survey respondents said that lunch makes them happier. And—let’s be honest—there’s a lot to be said for keeping employees happy.
Maybe the way to employees’ hearts (and brains) is through their stomachs
Clearly, there are a lot of really great (and proven!) reasons to encourage employees and colleagues to take a regular lunch break. From both a personal and professional perspective, it really is a win-win.
Providing catered lunches at the office is a great way to not only encourage people to take a break, but to also help promote healthier work habits in general, increase productivity levels and employee satisfaction, and even potentially alleviate burnout and reduce turnover. (A 2021 survey by workplace hygiene supply brand Tork found that more than 9 in 10 employees say they are more likely to stay at a company where bosses encourage their employees to take a break.)
For the full trends and insights and the results of our lunch at work survey, check out our Lunch Report.