Should lunch breaks be mandatory?

Workers who are given the leeway to enjoy their lunch break every day are said to be better engaged at work

Should lunch breaks be mandatory?

It’s 11 a.m. but your staff have a report due in two hours. Chances are, your team will be eating lunch at their desk again if not skipping their meal altogether.

While the practice seems nothing out of the ordinary, it might be contributing to low team morale – and managers may be held to account.

New research suggests that – while managers recognize the importance of staff being able to step away from work during the lunch hour – “some bosses look down upon employees who take regular lunch breaks when evaluating their job performance”.

This has to change, according to professional hygiene brand Tork, which commissioned the study.

“At a time when companies are trying to find every little way to maximize the efficiency and productivity of their employees,” Tork said, “the workplace norm around lunch breaks needs to be shifted from something that you are only able to do when you have the time, to something that you would be remiss to skip.”

READ MORE: The real reasons employees are 'burned out'

There’s good reason for the shift, too: workers who are given the leeway to relax and enjoy their lunch break day to day are believed to be better engaged at work.

The study found these employees fare better in terms of their job satisfaction, efficiency and likelihood of recommending their workplace to others than workers who are forced to eat lunch at their desk or who fail to take their lunch break regularly because of their workload.

Change won’t happen, however, without proper support from managers. “This change begins at the managerial or even institutional level by actively encouraging lunch breaks rather than assuming employees will work them into their own schedules,” the study claimed.

While skipping lunch or eating at one’s desk is often a matter of personal preference, bosses can steer their workers into taking their lunch break every day away from their work area.

By assigning common eating areas or implementing mandatory lunch breaks, team leaders can help ease some of the “employee-boss tension surrounding taking lunch breaks,” the researchers noted.

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