Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We All Need Lunch Hour


No one takes lunch any more.  Inevitably, the “lunch hour” has shrunk to twenty minutes, which includes the ten minutes it takes to go and get it.  Most people I know eat lunch at their desks, while continuing to work.  It is a mistake.

Everyone does it.  Including me.

Lunch used to be a great break during the day.  It was a time when employees got to socialize, got to know each other, even exchange ideas about their business. Lunchtime with co-workers built esprit de corpsIt was also a time in the middle of the day to recharge, relax and think.  Not so any more.

Once upon a time, the work week was 40 hours, but that included lunch, an hour a day.  Today, often, the work week is sixty hours.  There is very little time for recharging batteries, so to speak.  The irony is that without that mid-day break, employees become less productive not more, despite their long hours.  There is a difference between working long and working smart.

So what happened?

Staffing has shrunk.  Corporate revenues are down; profits are declining.  Deadlines loom (often falsely made by people who are afraid).  So people are expected to work through lunch.  Sometimes people work during lunch time because they are afraid of their boss or their boss’s boss – after all, what would those people think if someone actually spent an hour decompressing (we all know the best ideas occur in the middle of the night or in the shower, when people are relaxed, but no matter)?  Sometimes people work through lunch because they have an early afternoon deadline.  And, often, their boss, who always works through lunch and expects the subordinate to do the same, comes to them at 11:40 and schedules a lunchtime meeting or work session – without asking if it is okay.  After all, few people would dare tell the CEO or Creative Director or their supervisor, that they actually had a lunch date.  

The worst part of this is that rarely does the person who called the last minute meeting provide any food or drink.  I know too many people who tell me that they finally grabbed a yogurt at 4pm.

I think that all businesses should enforce a mandatory break for lunch.  I bet if they did, they would find that fresh ideas would increase, as would productivity.

What do you think?


  1. When I was in advertising I lived on 39th St and walked to work on Madison Ave.. picking up a breakfast sandwich at the Deli at 7am.
    Lunch was either a Dr. Pepper a smoke in the park behind the Library.. or a 2 hour Jack on the rocks and a couple glasses of Pinot at Four Seasons, Sardis, Harry's Bar, Smith & Wollensky, Russian Tea Room, Plaza, Mr. Lee's, Pasta in LIttle Italy, a Vanity Fair luncheon on a boat or a dog at the Yankee game. Lunch has never been the same. There were no computers, no smart phones so there no social media at lunchtime.. so you were able to and had to be social and get out in the city to see what was going on the street. I would work in the office until 10 because Studio 54 did get going until midnight. A great time to be a mad man in the ad game when it was considered by many the best business in the world.

    1. Kahuna: Your advertising life sounds like it was interesting. Thanks for sharing. It simply doesn't happen any more.


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