Take Your Lunch Break!

Published by Annie Barrett: 
May 20, 2024

I just came back from six weeks in Spain where the midday meal is the largest meal of the day and something that people definitely don’t skip! At lunch time, people take a break and leave the workplace to have lunch with their colleagues at a restaurant or cafe, or go home for lunch. 

Lunch breaks continue to be common in many European countries. 

The time Europeans may take for lunch can vary in length between 30 minutes on the shorter side to a few hours. Countries in Southern Europe such as Spain and Greece tend to have longer lunch breaks. For example, in many parts of Spain, workers typically take a break (called the siesta) between 2–5 PM, then go back to work another three hours.

Most workers in the U.S. don’t prioritize their lunch break or don’t even take a lunch break

For many, the lunch break is only 30 minutes and may be spent hunched over the computer with a sandwich or salad. Many Americans only eat away from their workplace a few times a year. In a 2023 report on U.S. workday eating habits by ezCater, nearly half of survey respondents (48%) said they skip lunch at least once a week. 29% of workers blocked off time on their calendars for lunch, but 62% say they couldn't actually use it for a meal. Gen Z was found to be most likely to skip meals at work, with 70% skipping lunch once a week.

However, we should be taking our lunch break like Europeans - it’s better for our bodies and minds.

Why? North Americans are famously overworked. A life well lived includes taking time to mindfully enjoy your lunch and not eat it at your desk or in front of your computer.

The Benefits of Taking a Lunch Break

Your wellbeing is both a physical and psychological investment. When life is busy, it can be hard to hit the pause button. But, when we do pause and nourish ourselves, we not only provide our bodies with energy and nutrition to keep us moving forward, we also refresh our minds and set ourselves up for a more productive and positive afternoon and evening. A 2017 survey showed that employees who take a lunch break had higher job satisfaction and happier moods. Employees who take their lunch break are more engaged. Taking lunch breaks boosts productivity. Research also shows that work performance and productivity increase when employees take their lunch breaks during work hours. Taking a lunch break can give you a fresh perspective, help you maintain mental focus, and help you feel energized.

How to Create a Lunch Habit for Yourself

  1. Cultivate the mindset of the long game when it comes to your work and your life. Don’t just live to work. Work to live. You deserve a break and a time to relax during the middle of your day. Plus, you’ll be more focused, productive, and a better person to be around if you take a break.
  2. Create a consistent time block or appointment for lunch in your calendar just like you would any other meeting.
  3. At lunch time, step away from your work area and enjoy a proper lunch break away from your desk and office. 
  4. Reward! Go back to work feeling more relaxed and with a more positive attitude.

How to Encourage a Lunch Break Culture

  1. Know your workplace’s lunch break policy and know the law. Talk to your HR department and ask about the lunch policy at your work. You can learn about the meal break laws for your state from the U.S. Department of Labor site here.
  2. If you’re in management, set an example. Be a role model and take your lunch break. Encourage others to do the same.
  3. Create or enhance your break room. Create a comfortable place for people to step away from their workstations and eat lunch at the workplace. When possible, create places for people to eat lunch outside.
  4. Make lunch time a social affair. Invite your colleagues to eat lunch with you. Have monthly potlucks at work. Socializing at work has numerous benefits.
  5. Eat lunch away from the workplace when possible. Whether you go out for lunch, go home for lunch, or eat a picnic lunch outside, get out of the workplace for lunch at least once a week.