Lunch breaks disappearing from work schedules - CBS 5 - KPHO

More workers dining at their desks

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Many workers in America are ditching their lunch breaks which health experts say is not good for productivity. (Source: CNN) Many workers in America are ditching their lunch breaks which health experts say is not good for productivity. (Source: CNN)
(Source: Facebook/McDonald's) (Source: Facebook/McDonald's)

(RNN) - You work long hours. You eat junk food purchased from the office vending machine while you multitask. You don't remember the last time you went out for lunch. Wait...lunch break...what is that?

Today's fast-paced work environment has left many employees with more work and less time, making the standard lunch break disappear from office culture.

A study by fast food chain KFC Corp., found that 60 percent of workers in Corporate America actually considered the lunch hour "the biggest myth of office life."

"Lunch breaks? I have never heard of those," Leslie Koreen Tyler told KSLA on their Facebook page.

In a weakened economy, many employees feel a heightened need to prove their worth or look like a superstar worker who goes above and beyond to get the job done.

However, giving up lunch breaks could actually diminish productivity, causing workers to putting in more hours in the long run, not to mention what it does for your health and well-being.

"For many people, multitasking through lunch is part of the average workday," said American Dietetic Association (ADA) Spokesperson Toby Smithson. "While shorter lunch hours may result in getting more accomplished, they could also be causing workers to log additional sick days, as desktops hide bacteria that can lead to foodborne illness."

Right Management polled 751 American workers asking if they regularly take a break for lunch. This is what they found:

  • Yes, almost always - 35 percent
  • Yes, but usually stay at my desk - 34 percent
  • Only from time to time - 15 percent
  • Seldom, if ever - 16 percent

Many workers run down to the nearest grab-and-go and bring their salad or sandwich back up to their desk, and eat it while checking email or doing work.

Desktop dining is normally done as an effort to save time and money or even trying to get out of work at a reasonable hour to have a few extra minutes of quality time with family and friends.

According to a new survey by the ADA, 62 percent of American office workers usually eat their lunch in the same spot they work all day. In addition to lunch, 27 percent will eat breakfast at their desk and 50 percent will snack at their desk throughout the workday.

Though it's easy to rationalize skipping lunch or eating at your desk, the break can actually be mentally rejuvenating.

Experts say taking an uninterrupted meal break is healthy, increases job efficiency and improves morale, benefiting both employees and their companies.

"Taking time away from one's desk for lunch would help reduce tension and boost energy, but our research results might lead us to ask…is that still a real option for people now," Haid asked.

Not everyone is convinced that a lunch break is particularly useful. Some view it as an obstacle to getting to the end of the workday.

"Most people would rather catch up on their work, or have no place to go...so eat and work at the same time, and leave work early in place of lunch break," Symanthia Hucks Jennings told WMBF. "Most places only offer 30 minutes, what's the point in leaving? I'd rather work through lunch and then leave for the day early. No worries of returning back and getting focused back into it again."

Others may be discouraged from lunching by their office culture or fear being viewed as lazy.

"Sure, workers may feel devoted to their work, which is fine, but given the level of stress in today's workplace I wonder is the reluctance to take a break is an expression of devotion or a negative consequence of the unrelenting pressure some organizations are exerting on their workforces to get more done with fewer resources," Haid said.

McDonalds launched an ad campaign in spring 2012 geared toward Americans who often work through lunch encouraging them enjoy lunch outside of the workplace called "It's your lunch, take it!"

Though it seems easy to rationalize skipping lunch or eating at your desk, many health experts say the reasons a lunch break should be part of a daily work routine are workers have more energy, your body needs fuel, workers are more productive because they've given their brain a break, stress levels drop, making workers healthier overall.

"We've certainly come a long way from the three-martini lunch of a generation ago," Haid said. "But we have to ask if we've gone too far in the other direction."

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