Just as I’m about to leave the office to grab a bite to eat, my phone rings. So, I take the “quick” call. Then, I receive an email notification from my boss. I need to answer it, so she knows that I am reliable and responsive. Other small tasks seem to pop up and the next thing I know, it’s 3 o’clock, and I’ve got a meeting in 15 minutes. I scrounge up a granola bar from my desk and head to my meeting, knowing that I won’t have another opportunity to eat a proper meal or take a break for the rest of the workday.
Does this scenario sound like you or one of your employees? Do you equate this behavior to being a hard worker?
Perhaps contrary to popular opinion, when employees regularly skip their lunch break, it doesn’t make them more productive employees. It makes them more susceptible to burnouts. In turn, harming their health and your business. Employees who take breaks are better for it. Their minds are refreshed, their mental battery re-charged. Now they’re able to jump back into their work with energy and renewed focus. Breaks bring about productivity and performance that lasts.
Many employers face a challenge when trying to transform the mentality of an organization that breaks are for lazy employees. As we know, change can be downright hard, but it’s worth it to avoid burnout amongst your staff. A recent survey by Tork reveals that 90% of North American employees feel refreshed and ready to get back to work after a proper lunch break. In addition, employees who take a lunch break every day scored higher on a range of engagement metrics, including job satisfaction, likelihood to continue working at the same company and likelihood to recommend their employer to others.
Here are a few suggestions on how to establish a lunch culture at work.
1. Block Time on Calendar
The calendar feature in our email is a wonderful scheduling tool. It does not have to be used for only meeting requests and work appointments. Encourage your staff to block out their break window each day. Of course, employees will need to be flexible to meet work requirements, so the time could change daily. Once the break is placed on the calendar, two things should happen: a reminder notification will be sent to the employee, so they will not forget to take their break, and their time will be respected by their colleagues to know that their coworker is taking their well-deserved break.
2. Create a Community
Eating alone can be dull, so try assembling a lunch group or two. Invite individuals from different teams to join, so it does not turn into a department lunch meeting. Leave out work talk from break time discussion. This will allow staff to get to know one another on a personal level and take that needed time away from work to refresh. Change up the meeting locations to add excitement. Go out to eat, eat outside at the picnic tables, or if the group already ate, take a walk around the building or nearby park. Building a community promotes team bonding and a healthy culture. However, always make sure that these events are pre-planned and approved, so it does not leave the workplace understaffed.
3. Spread the Word
Some of your well-known workaholics may not know how to take a break. You may need to train them, and that is ok. You can send out a quick email to your team that educates them on why rest periods are important for their physical and mental wellbeing. Or, post an announcement in the breakroom with different types of activities that employees can engage in, when they are on their break, such as: exercising, listening to music or a podcast, reading, run a personal errand, etc. Finally, if you’ve noticed that one of your employees has been knees deep in work all day, simply have a quick conversation with them. Something like: “I’ve noticed that you have been working diligently all day. Have you had a chance to take a break?” A little nudge may be all that they need to step away.
June 19th is National Take Back the Lunch Break Day. You can commemorate it in your workplace by creating a fun challenge for your employees to see who can take the most fun and/or creative break. Or, if the budget allows, treat your employees to a company-sponsored lunch, afternoon treat in the breakroom, or company-wide pitch-in.
Finally, continue to work with your management team to plan additional ways throughout the year to celebrate taking breaks, to foster organizational support and encourage your employees to decompress, recharge and prepare to power through the second half of their workday. Your employees and the success of your business will be better for it.