3 in 5 say managers don’t encourage such breaks

More than one-quarter of Canadian workers do not take a regular lunch break due to workload, company policy or culture, according to a survey by Tork, a global hygiene brand.

Once a much-anticipated fixture of the workday, the lunch break has more recently been the subject of neglect, found the North American report, which included feedback from 500 Canadian workers and 100 managers.

Many employees forego the break, fearing judgment from managers or co-workers, according to Jennifer Deal, senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego, Calif., which partnered with Tork for the survey.

“Everyone wants to get promoted,” she said. “Everyone wants to be seen as being hardworking… People have begun to think that if they spend more time working — if they’re sort of seen to not leave their desk — they will be perceived more that way.”

Technological advances and an always-on mentality are also contributors, according to Kim Ruzycki, nutrition coach and founder of Picky Diet in Ancaster, Ont.

“With the influx of technology and the fact that we can be connected all the time, so many employees are feeling that even their lunch break is spent… eating, but still in front of their computer or phone or answering an email,” she said. “People might still be taking their lunch — as in eating it — but they’re not actually taking a lunch break and stepping away for a certain amount of time.”

“We have this hustle mindset that we can get more done and ‘Let’s just keep working, we can work through lunch.’ And somehow, that’s seen as such an accomplishment. But, at the end of the day, it’s really not.”

Benefits to taking lunch

Disconnection from work is a powerful way to refresh the mind and body, said Ruzycki.

“Our brains need time away from what we’re doing in order to be creative, come up with new content and to be more highly engaged when we return,” she said. “We only have so much willpower to work on things throughout the day. And if it is all used up so early, then our engagement throughout the afternoon is going to slowly go away.”

Survey results back this up: 91 per cent of workers said lunch breaks refresh them for an afternoon of work, while 82 per cent admitted daily lunch breaks fuel their desire to be an active member of the company.

A healthy lunch break would be stepping away from the computer and other devices,  healthy food, and maybe speaking with other employees about things outside of work, said Ruzycki.

“That’s really healing and really healthy for your body overall. And healthier employees are more productive employees.”

A reluctance to take a lunch break is often perceived as dedication to the job, said Deal.

“In reality, taking time away for a lunch break can help to reduce stress, increase engagement and restore energy levels, making employees feel more effective and productive back at the office.”

Rest and recovery is a natural way for humans to refuel, she said.

“People have forgotten how important that rest is because you can power through,” said Deal. “It’s not uncommon, but it isn’t necessarily a best practice. It isn’t what will make people happiest and healthiest, most productive and engaged over time, because eventually you just get worn out.”

Advice for managers

While 89 per cent of Canadian managers believe they encourage workers to take lunch, just three of five employees agree, according to the survey.

In this case, a leader’s actions must align with her words, said Deal.

“Leading by example is a good place to start,” she said. “If employees see the boss taking breaks and actively encouraging people and questioning people: ‘Have you taken a break?’ People pay attention to words, but they pay a heck of a lot more attention to what people do.”

Managers should consistently be urging direct reports to step away, head outside, or mingle with colleagues, according to Ruzycki. “The manager or the team leader should enforce a proper lunch break, and almost enforce it like they do anything else.”

But encouragement and leading by example aren’t enough, said Deal.

“(Leaders) also have to not promote the people who are working incessantly and never taking breaks. They need to reward the people who are taking breaks, who are contributing, who are doing those sorts of things that we know make for a long-term, healthy workforce.”

Additionally, stressing the importance of taking lunch to a potential hire can reveal an organizational commitment to work-life balance — critical when 90 per cent of employees consider the ability to break for lunch important when mulling over a new position, she said.

“If organizations are serious about letting people take breaks — especially a lunch break — this is something that shows that the organization is interested in the whole employee, not just the work they can wring out of the employee. And that is something that people — especially young people — really want.”

Originally posted on hrreporter.com  By Marcel Vander Wier on May 30, 2018