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Do You Eat Lunch Alone At Your Desk? Why We Need to Reclaim Our Lunch Break

Lunchtime is endangered. We need to fight back before it goes extinct.

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Yet, it’s inefficient, actually, for employers not to encourage lunch breaks. Research has shown that allowing workers to take lunch breaks together can increase workplace productivity and morale as much as 25 percent. In fact, the closer workers are to their coworkers and the more coworkers they speak to throughout the day, the more productive they are.

“Although taking a longer lunch means I spend more time at the office in the afternoon, it's worth it to get outside and refresh the creative juices,” said Eric Keto, a videographer at East Oregonian Publishing Co., who takes a walk with his colleague every afternoon.

Wehde said that not only does an absence of lunch breaks decrease productivity, but it also eliminates a time for workers to get together and talk about their working conditions. 

“I wonder if employers aren’t in some cases deliberately restricting the opportunity workers have to compare notes,” he said. “The opportunities for people to actually talk to one another are limited … but the good news is workers … can be agents of their own change, whether that’s to get a lunch break that’s not required by law or to make sure that they’re getting the one that they’re entitled to.”

Wehde said he has increasingly been hearing from workers about job-related concerns, especially after the creation of his new column that addresses problems people face at their workplaces.

“They got this nagging suspicion that they’re not being treated fairly and that there should be something they could do about it,” he said.

Regardless of occupation, as jobs are having less of a team-project-like sense and more of a work-for-and-by-yourself sense, perhaps the biggest downfall of missing lunch breaks is not having a chance to simply socialize with coworkers.

For Dean Bottino, a graphic designer, his lunch break is one of the only times he has to socialize.

“I eat lunch at my desk or with coworkers at the office,” he said. “The breaks are very important to me because I don't have a lot of time after work to make friends or talk to people.”

Amelia Blevins, a newly employed editorial assistant at a publishing company, said she has appreciated being able to talk to and become friends with her coworkers during lunchtime.

“I almost always eat with my coworkers at the office,” she said. “We usually eat out on the sundeck. I eat with them because I think it's important to build good social relationships with your peers and coworkers.”

Possibly the scariest part of our tendency to skip lunch breaks is our blind acceptance of this unhealthy trend. Eating lunch at your desk has increasingly become a part of office customs, and many fail to think twice about taking a break from work.

Daniel Oliver, a lab coordinator at a research hospital, wishes it felt acceptable to take a lunch.

He said, “As much as I value my theoretical lunch break, I always end up eating at my desk because that's the department culture, and I feel like I need to be at my desk.”

Wehde said workers are having a “slippery slope of lowered expectations.”

He said: “Having time for lunch or a break from your job really used to be a much more common practice, but if folks are working through their breaks and expecting that that’s what they are expected to do in order to get their jobs done, think about how that shapes their view of what their expectations could be in other categories.”