Taking a break for lunch can help workers reduce stress and work more productively. Taking a break for lunch can help workers reduce stress and work more productively.
Image: Marcin Malicki / Shutterstock
It's an aspect that most employers probably don't think about much when they're coming up with strategies for boosting their teams' productivity. Not least because it's the time of day when you're not working! And yet, in the United States at least, the lunch break is key for promoting greater productivity.
In many offices around the world, as early as 11 am colleagues start asking one another "Are we going out to lunch?" or "Did you pack your lunch today?" It's the kind of question that many employees take extremely seriously. In some cultures, lunchtime is a truly treasured moment. In the latest OECD study on the subject, published this summer, the French were found to spend between 2 hours and 13 minutes on meals each day, compared with a world OECD average of 1 hour 31 minutes per day. Koreans spend 1h41 and Australians 1h31, while at the very bottom of the ranking are the Americans, who set aside just 1h02 for eating and drinking.
And yet, in the country which has a reputation for employees always being available, the lunch break appears to be connected with productivity, according to a report by ezCater, an American provider of corporate catering solutions. Among the employees surveyed, 78% feel that taking a break at this time of day "improves their job performance." In short, there's nothing like recharging one's batteries to be more productive. The benefits of a lunch break are even greater than you might imagine: half of American employees find that stopping work temporarily to eat lowers their stress levels. What's more, 53% even say that lunch makes them happier.Also read: Four-day work week brings no loss in productivity
Could the lunch break be a terrain where bosses and employees achieve some kind of harmony? According to the US-based employees surveyed who have a remote or hybrid setup, they would be more inclined to return onsite if lunch were provided for free. Members of Generation Z are particularly interested in this opportunity. Eighty-three percent of them see this perk as a motivating factor to head onsite to work, compared with 67% for others.
Employers looking for ways to foster greater productivity may want to explore various options related to the lunch break. The percentage of employees who say they never take a lunch break is up 40% compared to last year. Around one worker in two (48%) skips lunch at least once a week (70% among Gen Z employees). And while for 29%, this break in the middle of the day is sacred, 62% don't necessarily use this free time to eat. All of which helps to explain why Americans spend the least time eating and drinking of all the OECD countries.