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What lunch breaks say about employee engagement

June 25, 2018

By Kevin Marrs, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Are you a cube warrior?  Eating lunch at your desk, or worse yet…skipping lunch all together?  If you answered yes, your job satisfaction and engagement may be suffering.  
According to Tork, an Essity brand, North American workers who take lunch breaks every day score higher on a wide range of employee engagement metrics, including job satisfaction as well as the likelihood to continue working at the same company or recommend their employer to others.
It is also quite likely that skipping lunch does not have its intended effect.  According to the research, respondents who skipped lunch were 7% less likely to respond favorably to the question, “I am as effective and efficient as I would like to be.”
As it pertains to engagement, these findings might seem counter intuitive at first glance.  You might expect those who skip lunches to be more engaged (i.e., expending more discretionary energy on behalf of the company), but Tork’s research argues otherwise.
“Results from our research show the importance of taking a real lunch break – getting fresh air, exercising, or picking up a lunch that will fuel you for the rest of the day. This simple act of taking a full lunch break can improve how employees feel about their work and their company. The study reveals something managers and companies can start doing tomorrow to make a positive impact on employee engagement,” said Don Lewis, President of Professional Hygiene at Essity.
Where does the pressure or desire to skip lunch come from?  The Tork survey found some potential contributors, including the following:

  • 34% of bosses consider how often an employee takes a lunch break when evaluating their job performance
  • 22% of bosses think that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking
  • 13% of North American workers think their coworkers would judge them negatively if they take a regular lunch break

The survey, part of the Tork’s Take Back the Lunch Break campaign, was conducted between December 4 – December 12, 2017 among 1,600 North American employees across the United States and Canada. Respondents were asked questions centered on breaks at work as well as employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction. The survey has been planned, monitored, and analyzed by KRC Research with support from the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California (USC).
“Reluctance to take a lunch break is often perceived as a display of dedication to the job,” said Jennifer Deal, 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). “In reality, taking time away for a lunch break can help to reduce stress, increase engagement, and restore energy levels, making employees feel more effective and productive back at the office.”

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