This Can Make or Break Your Work Day


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Some 48% of Americans say their typical lunch break lasts 30 minutes or less, according to a new report from OfficeTeam. And that might be a mistake.

"Lunch breaks aren't just for eating," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. "They provide time to clear your head and recharge. Workers also can use their lunch breaks to get to know colleagues better and build their professional networks."

An OfficeTeam survey found 42% reported spending this 30 minute breaks socializing with colleagues aside from eating and that 29% work during lunch breaks.

When asked what is the average length of your typical lunch break, only 38% said 60 minutes or more and a mere 11% said 31 to 45 minutes.

Whether an employee is paid a salary or paid by the hour can dictate the length of lunch breaks.

"It may also be due to the industry, staffing levels or an individual department within a company and parameters they are working with," Breslin said. "Exempt salaried employees are paid a fixed salary to get their job done. Whether they work ten-hour days many days on end or an eight-hour day with a one-hour lunch break Monday through Friday, they receive the same pay. An hourly employee is paid for each hour they work, so federal and state guidelines direct the number of unpaid and paid breaks and overtime laws applicable to them." If half an hour isn't enough, workers can always ask for more time.

"A manager will likely be very open to working with an employee and their lunch time schedule and the employee should demonstrate the same flexibility with their employer," said Jacqueline Breslin, director Human Capital Services with TriNet. "There may be business reasons why an hour does not work for a certain company or department but perhaps there is a compromise or a creative solution an employer and employee can work through."

When asked about activities outside of eating that workers participated in during their lunch break, 18% chose exercise or take a walk, 25% run errands, 27% surf the web or social media, 3% read and only 1% said they do nothing but eat.

"It may be tempting to work through lunch, because maybe it means you'll get out of the office a bit earlier or knock one other item off the to-do list," Breslin told MainStreet. "But we are all more productive after a nutritious lunch when we can focus on the work ahead instead of our hunger pangs."

Work breaks are typically mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"It is an employer's responsibility to ensure the employee is freed up to take their breaks," Breslin said. "There are negative implications including fines, penalties and disgruntled employees when an employer is not properly managing an hourly employee's breaks and lunches."

One way that some employers ensure that their employees are taking lunch breaks is by catering lunch for their employees every weekday. "They take care to plan a diverse weekly menu with a variety of tastes and preferences," said Breslin. "Their break rooms are stocked with healthy and organic options."

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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