SURVEY SAYS: Do You Take a Break for Lunch?

March 31, 2011 ( - I was struck (as were many of you, based on the clickthroughs) by that report about an apparent link between productivity and taking a break for lunch. 
So, this week I thought I’d ask – on MOST days, do you take a break for lunch?   

Most of this week’s respondents are managing to get lunch; in fact, a full 50% said they were, while another quarter (25.7%) said that they did, on most days, get lunch, but embraced the caveat, “…but I don’t know that I would call it a “break”).  Of course, the remaining 24.3% said they weren’t getting lunch.

I also asked readers just how long that lunch break was, and for a plurality, it looks like an hour.  Just under a quarter (23,8%) said an hour, in fact, while another 23.1% said it was somewhere between a half hour and an hour.  As for the rest:

15.6% – about half an hour

8.8% – however fast I can wolf down some food

7.5% – 15 minutes, tops

Just under 13% described that break as “nonexistent.” 

Among those who opted for “other” were the following:

I eat while I work, so I'm not sure how long it takes me to eat lunch.

We have two lunch periods. So, mine is sometimes between, but always after, the stampedes to the trough.

My "lunch break" almost ALWAYS consists of eating at my desk while I read email, answer questions, etc. I rarely leave my desk or the office at lunch.

I work from home, so it depends on how fast I can get downstairs and grab something and get back upstairs with it to continue to work while I consume.

AS long as i can stretch it ---

The amount of time I take depends on what's going on that day.

Depends on the work load and the day. Never more than an hour and in most cases like today, I eat lunch on the clock and work at the same time.

I eat at my desk while do work.

Fridays I always have lunch with friends for a full hour. Never take a break other days of the week.

The distance between the office refrigerator back to my desk.. about 3-minutes.

Depends if I'm eating by myself, a co-worker or friend. My lunches with friends take the longest. 


There were, of course, some interesting "verbatims": 

I have always eaten lunch at my desk to get things done.  Our company moved into a new building, hot or odorous food must be eaten in the break room (which has a beautiful view), so for the first time in my career, I am getting away from my desk for about 15 minutes to heat and eat my food.

Since I have the attention span of a gnat, I take a lot of mini breaks by jumping on to the internet and reading Google news or something not business related.

"I take phone calls and walk ins to my office during my lunch.  The only way to get a real break is to leave the building."

I eat at my desk while answering e-mails et. al.  But then I'll go for a walk of a couple of miles, weather permitting

It is very rare that I take a lunch break.  If I do, it is because I have to run an errand.

I find that if I DON'T take a break, I will work the whole day without one.  I also take breaks from work to work out each day and go for a run.  I work from home, so I am online around 6:30 AM.  Around 10 AM, I will go to the gym or go for a run for an hour.  Around 12 or 1, I break for lunch for 30 - 60 minutes.  At 4:30, I might have to take the kids to baseball practice (but I bring my laptop with me).  When I finally log off around 6 PM, I find that although I've taken 2 - 3 breaks, I have been online 9 - 10 hours that day.  It works. For me at least.

I think it's important for everyone's productivity to take a lunch break.  Even if it is only 20-30 minutes.  It's a good idea to get away from what you are doing and think about someone else.  I normally take about 30 minutes, sit with others in our lunch room, read the paper, and talk about things other than work.  It's good for the brain.  I always strongly encourage others to take a break for lunch, even if a brief one.


For lack of a better term, I'm awed at the futile attempts to cram a day's worth of errands into a 30 minute dash. Most return more frazzled and stressed than before their quest.

Everyone in my department eats lunch at her desk and takes calls during the break.

No lunch breaks for the past 15 years.

We don't take mid-morning or mid-afternoon breaks.

Lunch is usually just eating and reading a book at my desk.  Having this "time out" mid-day clears my mind and keeps me fresh for the afternoon.

I try to sneak in a 1/2 hour walk.  My office is located in what used to be a shopping mall.

I rarely make it through lunch without being interrupted by work.

As long as you get your job done----and done correctly---and, I personally believe in giving 110%, the number and length of breaks is irrelevant...some days I NEED breaks---other days I am on a roll and do not want to stop for anything!!!!and will work for hours on end. I feel that I owe the company for that which I am paid---and if I can sleep at night knowing I "gave" my due, it does not matter about breaks...if you are customer facing, that MUST be taken into consideration, because, well, that is your job!

I agree that productivity may be lost if you don't take a break each day.  Doesn't need to be a full hour, but some time away is, in my opinion, beneficial.  I tend to "run down" earlier in the day if I don't take a little time away from my desk.

I take my lunch break and I rather resent the people who sniff at people who take lunch breaks. It's recharge time and refuel time, otherwise, I'd be completely unproductive in the afternoon. If you want to be a martyr and not take lunch, that's your choice. Mine is to take the time given to me.

Usually lunch is on premises (lunchroom) and we discuss work, so it's not really a break.  Going out for lunch is a real break and I feel more alert in the afternoon.  I don't drag as much as when I stay in.


I don't break to eat, but to get a work out.  On the days where I work through my lunch, I'm not less productive, but definitely less pleasant.

"I love some the expressions that have entered the workplace lunch break.  They include:

Instead of eating a sandwich, people run out to ""grab"" a sandwich.

Just what is getting a ""quick bite""?

I don't enjoy ""working lunches"".  Too messy."

While I don't skip lunch entirely, as noted in the UK survey (eating poor food and drink choices), I don't consider eating my lunch at my desk as a break.  My productivity may not suffer as much as result of keeping my energy up with the right diet but something's not quite right about that practice, either.

At my previous job I didn't take lunch....if you weren't at your desk "cheeks in seat" and visible all day long, you weren't doing your job.  With my current employer, I am encouraged to leave the office and I do.  I go to the gym most days, which I find makes me much more productive in the afternoon and keeps me away from drinking caffeine all afternoon to stay awake!

I feel like lunch breaks make me LESS productive. I would much rather stay focused on what I am doing than break my concentration, go fill up, and feel like taking a nap all afternoon.

Having lost my corporate job and now a "state" employee, I have been subjected to 11 furlough day - days without pay - and haven't had a raise in three years. I've learned from my colleagues that I need to do everything on "ST" - state time. So I take a lunch hour-or-so almost every day. Please don't post my name on this comment!

Hey, at this stage of my life, I need all the BREAKS I can get, except those within my own body, of course.............


I've always felt it was important to take a break and return with a clear mind. What I do a lunch may change (go out for coffee with friends, talk in the lunch room or read) but the result is always the same - being refreshed.

For almost 15 years I only took a lunch break if I had a business lunch appointment.  I either skipped lunch completely or gobbled something at my desk.  I finally changed jobs, found life/work balance, and am healthier and happier. About 3 days a week, I now go for a walk or go to the gym for 30 minutes as my break time.

Union contract calls for at least a 1/2 hour lunch each day

It's almost comical when the hourly employees are asked to be in a meeting during one of their two PAID breaktimes (not lunch). Instead of skipping that break - they still manage to take it.  I guess "entitlement" is greater than getting their job done - which explains why they're still hourly.

Minimal work-related talk during lunch.  I return to my desk refreshed and focused.

I know taking a break is good for you, but getting home earlier to be with my family trumps the break. However, when the weather gets nicer I will take a longer break and go for a short walk.

When I was younger and trying to "prove" myself to upper management, I seldom took a lunch break or left before 6:00 in the evening. Now that I am "proven", I understand the value of getting away once a day to recharge myself. Sure, there are days where I eat at my desk or have a quick lunch, but I don't make a habit of it anymore.

I absolutely refuse to eat at my desk. I did that for too many years and found that it afforded me no time to let my brain rest between tasks. I work in a small office (@20 people) and sometimes I am the only one who does take a break for lunch. Other times, I do have company in our break room. I keep telling the younger employees in the office that it's not healthy to work straight through the day. You need a break or two to clear out your head. Unfortunately, most of them don't listen or don't believe.

As much as I encourage others to take their lunch breaks, I am the biggest offender.  The old adage, do as I say, not what I do rings true for me.


It just floors me that some people feel they are too important to take a break for lunch.  We have created an environment in which we think everything needs to be responded to at the moment.  Take a break, you will be more productive and creative for doing so!

My boss never takes lunch breaks, opting instead to eat at the desk. When I first started, I felt a little awkward about taking them, like it meant that I'm a slacker or something. But now I just think, "Hey, if you want to sit in the same spot all day long, that's your problem. I need to stretch my legs, clear my head, and get outside. Later!"

Always felt that number of straight hours working is no indication on the level of productivity. Taking a break for lunch is important to re-energize and prevent the afternoon melt down

The break is necessary to renew my concentration and give my eyes a break from spreadsheets!

I wasn't surprised. People need regular decompression time to be at their best. Fortunately, my wife and I work less than a mile apart. With an energetic pre-schooler at home, meeting for lunch three or four times a week our most consistent time for us to talk when we're not exhausted or distracted by work.

Not only do I take a lunch break, I also take a short nap break of about 15 minutes at mid-afternoon.  I can definitely tell you that nap rejuvenates you to continue to work with more focus and much longer.

I take the approach --- hey, I'm dressed, I'm here --- stay at the desk.  That's from years of having an hour-long commute: any minute at the desk may help get me out a reasonable hour.  Now my commute is less than three miles and I occasionally go home to play with my dog --- THAT is a great way to start the rest of the day.

We don't have a break or lunch room so everyone sits at their desk to eat unless they go out for lunch.

Gotta have the break--away from the desk--and I don't agree with people who claim they can't take a break....they tend not to be well balanced....

I take time during the "lunch hour" to eat, clean up my emails, read, study for exams.  However, it's at my desk.  I'd call it a working lunch but on a more relaxed state since it's "my" time.  I feel more refreshed and organized.  It works for me.


I feel better and I am more productive if I get outside, most days you can catch me on a quick 20 minute walk around downtown.

Since it's the only real break that we have all day, lunch is the overriding subject of discussion from 11:00 on. It's always in the office kitchen (small office), but we take it as a matter of principle.

I eat at my desk, so if someone stops by with a question or my phone rings, the "break" part just disappears.

I rarely stay in the office for lunch.  I need to break away from the work mindset and read something fun.  Call me standoffish, but listening to others gripe about their workload or (even worse) a manager wanting to discuss what I need to get done is not a refreshing way to spend a lunch break.

Not only do I make a point of taking a lunch break each day, I also leave the office to ensure that I truly get a break.

Lunch breaks are a necessity to maintain sanity!

I learned a long time ago that it's not worth taking at least 20 minutes to recharge!

I've learned over the years that it is critical for employees to take a mental break and, if possible, a physical break from the work place.

I generally don't take a lunch break because once I leave the building I don't want to come back.  It's just easier to stay in and work.

A vice president at my company once told me, you will never get any point in heaven or at work for skipping lunch so don't make it a practice.

"I do whateveris possible to avoid having to come in on weekends. If that means working through lunch or late into the night, so be it. I do enjoy having a round of golf and Saturday mornings is the time for me and my friends to get out on our standing tee time. That more than anything else recharges my batteries. 

Cutting down on my lunch seems like a small price to pay for that pleasure."

Most days lunch consists of eating something at my desk and working or reading my PLANSPONSOR update as I eat.

I make it a point to eat a healthy lunch every day (otherwise I'd be passed out on the floor).  But most of the time, I'm eating lunch at my desk while working or doing homework for the classes I'm taking.  But I do close my office door and forward my phone, so at least no-one is bothering me - that counts for something, right?

Usually I don't even get a break to pour myself a second cup of coffee; sometimes I don't get a break for the first cup of coffee.  Which is a good thing because bathroom breaks?  Ha ha ha.

I take a break for the same reason a basketball player doesn't play all 48 minutes of a game.  You need a brief rest so you can return at top speed.  I wonder if those who eat at their desk are as productive as those who do take a break.

Lunch is my daily retreat.  Of course during crunch times/deadlines, I do the "eat-at-my-desk" thing.  Employees that rarely or never take a lunch break may want to try checking their ego at the door...


"The noon hour is probably the best hour for me to get desk work done!  Meetings aren't usually scheduled, so I can reveiw and reply to e-mails, listen and reply to v-mails, and return phone calls (especially to other time zones).  I can also refile the paper from my morning meetings and prepare for the afternoon ones.

If I can actually grab a bite at my desk during all this, then its really a good day."

We have a fabulous cafe on campus so there is no need to go far to get something good to eat.

I need the time away from the hassles of work.  In the winter when its cool out, I run 5 miles; when its too warm to run, I settle in with a good novel to escape.  Either way, I return to work fully energized.

My lunch break is usually spent driving around taking care of errands.

Some days I eat at my desk while working but most days i skip it entirely.

It's the time that I get to the gym.

work while eating - is that really a break

Absolutely critical for my productivity. Rapid afternoon dropoff if I don't get some lunchtime.

I have gotten more careful about taking a break for lunch because I had heard it increased productivity.  I really think that is true for me.  Still, on some days I just feel like I must work through lunch but I don't make a habit of it (like I used to).

I have kids and try to limit my day to 9 hours.  Only way to do so is glue myself to my desk and work like a fiend all day. 

I usually try to get out for lunch on Fridays, but most other days I work.

I think lunch breaks are essential to having a clear mind for the 2nd half of the day. While it's certainly not always possible, it is something that I make a concerted effort to do. We are always "on" from the minute we wake up, through the day, and even when we are home checking our blackberries. I try to take some time to relax for a few minutes, eat, and either read something light (sports pages) or chat with friends. If companies were smart, they would strictly enforce lunch breaks for their employees. Aside from the other reasons, it would improve everyone's physical health as well.

Most of our group works flex-time so tend not to take lunches in order to leave earlier.




My favorites included:

My commute to work exceeds two hours per day; my work day is approximately 9 hours; so I eat at my desk.

There are those of us (me) who don't have time for lunch breaks and those of us who take all the time that we don't get and attach it to their lunch breaks - you're familiar with these folks right?!

In my written performance evaluation last year, my supervisor, the President, told me he didn't want to see me eating lunch at my desk and doing work at the same time anymore...

Although I'm on "break", I don't often leave my desk.

If I don't have too many e-mails to catch up on, I can usually try to squeeze in reading the daily Plan Sponsor e-mail while eating at my desk.

While I do work on spreadsheets, draft/read reports, and do internet research while I am eating lunch, I try not to answer the phone as my Mother always said, "Don't talk with your mouth full."

I'm supposed to take an hour lunch, however my workload would NEVER allow for that.  So, I eat as quickly as I can, (while working!), and then, to appease my boss, I put a lunch on my timecard - i know that it goes against a few laws, but she's "afraid" the DOL will show up one day.  We're all overworked, but hmm, spread the work amongst the team, and maybe it wouldn't be such a concern?

A former manager was fond of saying, "lunch is for wimps." That set the tone for our team.

Does it count if you eat lunch at your desk with work staring back at you?

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “In the HR world you're never really "out-to-lunch", though some will vehemently claim otherwise.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!