When noon rolls around, it is becoming more and more likely that you’ll find people tapping away at their keyboards while maybe pausing to wolf down a sandwich amidst email and paperwork. Declining job security, hefty workloads, pressure to do more with less and an office culture in which hour-long breaks aren’t the norm, are all reasons why we we’ve seen a trend in skipping lunch for more than a decade. There has been a plethora of research (Right Management a division of Manpower, 2015; Tork, 2018; Centre for Creative Leadership, 2020) showing that less than half of employees leave their desk to take a lunch break each day. Of those surveyed by Right Management, 20% usually eat at their desk, 20% only break for lunch “from time to time,” and 13% say they “seldom, if ever” take a lunch break. Is this really healthy? I am sure you know that the answer is a resounding NO! So, let’s take Key Steps this week and recover the long-lost lunchbreak so we can…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.

  1. What’s driving the insanity? Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 movie Wall Street, “Lunch is for wimps.” Sure, people skipped lunch in more prosperous times. But in today’s job market, stress and pressure has been exacerbated. People are just so stretched. Sometimes it’s simply cultural survival… “I can’t take lunch because it’s going to look bad” or “The more I do, hopefully the stronger position I will be in.” According to the Tork:1.1  Nearly 20% of workers worry their managers won’t think that they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks.1.2  While 13% worry their co-workers will judge them.

    1.3  38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.

    1.4  22% of managers say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking.

    These statistics are such a shame especially because when the lunch break vanishes, the research shows that employees are significantly more likely to give up their evenings and weekends too. They get caught in a hamster wheel of overwork that can lead to burnout. We are seeing too much of this right now!

  2. Did you know that regular breaks are good for your bottom-line? The Tork survey revealed that nearly 90% of employees felt that taking a lunch break helped them to feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. Of course, the breaks don’t have to specifically be at lunch time, but they do need to happen at various points in the day on a regular basis. There is so much research-backed health, wellness and performance benefits of taking breaks including greater job satisfaction, greater employee engagement, better productivity, enhanced creativity, less absenteeism and improved mental wellbeing, which all assist in improving the bottom-line. It is a no brainer, and we need to recover the lost breaks or risk damaging our bottom-line and our health!
  3. What can we do about it? Be part of the solution! I couldn’t agree more with Jennifer Deal, the Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and Affiliated Research Scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at University of Southern California (USC): “Taking breaks from work is important for recovery – and adequate recovery is critical for top performance. Energy isn’t unlimited, and just as athletes have halftime to rest during a game, employees need to rest so they can do their best work.” Moreover, 81% of employees who take a daily lunch break have a strong desire to be an active member in their company and desire to continue working at the same company. …

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’ 


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of
Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’