Is lunch the law?

Lunch breaks aren’t federally mandated — paid or unpaid. Some states, like California, have break requirements, while others like Missouri don’t. Companies perceived as desirable by workers generally encourage paid lunch breaks, and some even provide free food and inviting environments away from the cubicle farm for a midday timeout.

But federal or state laws are one thing. A boss that models bad behavior is another.

EZCater’s study, which found that 43% of respondents reported eating lunch at their desk three or more times per week, also found that 56% of director-level managers and roughly half of VP-level leaders munch through lunch at their desks at least three times per week.

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A firewall around lunch

The company’s report found that older workers are some of the most zealous protectors of the midday break, with nearly half of boomer-aged respondents stating they never eat at their desk.

That’s probably because they understand that breaks have a positive impact on the company and employees — from more productivity and higher contentment to better focus and increased employee retention, according to a similar study run by Tork, a corporate hygiene and health company.

And keep in mind that distracted eating at your desk — especially shared desks — can lead to problems like hygiene issues, with crumbs, nasty odors (especially in popular open floor plans) and even potential damage to expensive technology.

Then there’s your physical health.

Chips are for chumps

Eating at your desk often lends itself to quick-but-questionable snacking, with packaged and processed options an easy choice when the next meeting looms.

Remember that it’s important to stand up, move and stretch your body and rest your eyes. Mental health, and even professional collaboration, increases with breaks when you have time to attend to personal tasks, mindfulness or to strengthen relationships such as with colleagues who lunch together, as the Tork study shows.

So how can you contribute to a lunchable culture at work?

If your boss or colleagues won’t model good behavior, you can. Prioritize taking lunch breaks. Set away notifications with language such as, “I’ll be back from lunch soon” to train others that you take lunch and don’t answer non-emergency calls during your break.

If you’re discouraged from taking lunch breaks, consider discussing the issue with your boss or human resources representative.

After all, a company that’s invested in you wouldn’t want to lose you over lunch, would they?

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About the Author

Chris Clark

Chris Clark

Freelance Contributor

Chris Clark is freelance contributor with MoneyWise, based in Kansas City, Mo. He has written for numerous publications and spent 18 years as a reporter and editor with The Associated Press.

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