Lunch breaks aren’t the enemy. Here’s how you can encourage your team to make the most of their lunch break and see a boost in productivity.
You don’t know anyone who gets as excited about lunch as I do. I can promise you this. You may not know anyone who gets as excited about anything as I get about lunch. It’s my favorite meal of the day no matter where it happens or what I end up eating. Not everyone is a freak for lunch like I am — and not everyone can fit a lunch break in every day. But if you work a full-time office gig, your lunch break can be necessary for your sanity during the day. And if you manage a team, here are a few ways you can encourage your team to find time to take a lunch, even when time is tight and it doesn’t seem possible.
Employee productivity can often rise after a meal, especially when encouraged to seek or provided with nutritious meals to fuel the rest of their day.
If your employees are so strapped for time they don’t feel like they can take a lunch break, they may even be skipping the second meal of the day, which is likely leading them crash early in the late afternoon and struggle with a lack of productivity for the rest of the day. They may be skipping their breaks to appear to be working harder or because they are legitimately overtasked. They may feel that the unspoken company policy is that it “looks better” not to take a lunch.
Regardless of why your employees are skipping their lunch breaks — if you want to increase productivity in your team by encouraging employees to take advantage of their lunch breaks, here are a few things to consider:
- Provide ample time to take a real break at lunch. Give employees enough time to get out of the office, pick up lunch nearby, or sit down for the occasional extended lunch with local friends outside the office or for bonding with coworkers and managers. Don’t watch the clock on their lunch breaks unless you start to notice their productivity or output decreasing in a big way. And if you’re wondering if a 30-minute lunch break is long enough for your employees to get out for lunch, check out this video:
Make sure employees don’t feel judged for taking their break. If you offer a lunch break, don’t allow employees or managers to shame coworkers and direct reports into skipping lunch. That extra hour you might be getting (but probably aren’t) isn’t worth the resentment that’s building up in your team for having contradictory and confusing policies.
Beware of lunchtime martyrs. If you have employees who skip lunch so they can leave early or who genuinely have fluctuating workloads and need that time occasionally to keep up, be sure you don’t have a gaggle of lunchtime martyrs ruining lunch for everyone else. If your “supposed superheroes” are creating the perception that it looks better if you skip lunch, you could be building a culture of resentment within your team. Don’t let martyrs determine your company culture and don’t rely on them to get the rest of the team to “fly right” through passive aggressive intimidation. That’s not fair to either party — your “superheroes” will start to feel “put upon” or as though they sacrifice for the company in a disproportionate way and the rest of your team will resent your “superheroes” for what they’ll assume is being rewarded for kissing ass.
If you need to reclaim lunchtime for a while, provide a healthy lunch in the office so employees can still eat and stay productive. If you have a company event that is going to reclaim a lunch hour (training or orientation, etc), or if you know the workload across the company or certain departments is temporarily at a much higher level, bring in a healthy, catered lunch for your team as an option so they can still eat if they want to skip the trip out of the office. Be sure to consider the dietary needs and restrictions of your team — if you have a number of vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, or food allergies to consider.
The point is that lunch is not killing your team’s productivity. There’s a chance that petty restrictions on how employees take their lunches — for example, making them feel rushed or lazy for taking their lunch breaks — just might be affecting your team’s output more than you know. Consider reopening the lunch floodgates and letting your team recharge in the middle of the day to see what it can do for productivity in your organization.
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