HR Policies & Procedures

The Lunch Hour Is Not What it Used to Be

OfficeTeam recently released a survey exploring the true nature of the lunch hour in America. The findings show a landscape where lunch breaks are shorter, fewer workers take them, and when they do, over half use it to surf the net or social media.

Source: SetsukoN / E+ / Getty

More than half of workers (56%) said their typical lunch break lasts 30 minutes or less. Among professionals in the 28 U.S. cities surveyed, those in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami take the longest lunches. Employees in Salt Lake City, Des Moines and Cincinnati have the shortest breaks.

What are workers doing at lunch, besides eating? Respondents said they most frequently surf the internet or social media (52%), followed by catching up on personal calls or emails (51%). That’s up from 27% and 25%, respectively, from a 2014 survey. Twenty-nine percent of professionals confessed to working during lunch.

What is the average length (in minutes) of your typical lunch break?

0-10 minutes 7%
11-20 minutes 8%
21-30 minutes 41%
31-40 minutes 4%
41-50 minutes 10%
51-60 minutes 27%
More than 60 minutes 3%

Aside from eating, which of the following activities do you usually engage in during your lunch break?

Surf the web/social media 52%
Catch up on personal calls/emails 51%
Socialize with coworkers 47%
Run errands 32%
Read 32%
Exercise/take a walk 30%
Work 29%

“Even if only 30 minutes or less are available due to workloads or company guidelines, professionals should try to maximize lunch breaks to relax and recharge a bit,” said Brandi Britton, district president for OfficeTeam. “These days, people are quick to turn to their mobile devices to pass the time, but it can be a nice change of pace and good for relationship building to eat with colleagues.”

Additional Findings

  • Workers ages 18 to 34 (60%) most often surf the web or social media during lunch, compared to those ages 35 to 54 (55%) and 55 and older (34%).
  • Professionals in Phoenix, Boston and Washington, D.C., work the most on their lunch breaks.
  • Employees in Miami, New York, Houston and San Diego most frequently socialize with colleagues during their breaks.
  • San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati may be the most health-conscious, with the largest number of respondents who exercise or take a walk during lunchtime.

OfficeTeam offers five tips for workers to maximize lunch breaks:

  1. Have a well-balanced meal. Don’t skip what a midday break is intended for: eating. Choose nutritious foods that provide energy for the rest of the day.
  2. Get to know colleagues. Socializing with coworkers or your manager over lunch can strengthen connections. You could also network with contacts from other departments.
  3. Track professional goals. Use the time to meet with your mentor to discuss career progress.
  4. Step away from work. Getting out and taking a real break can help you return to the office more productive. Try exercising or walking to clear your mind.
  5. Take time for yourself. Running errands or taking care of personal tasks during lunch can result in a shorter to-do list later.

About the Research

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 2,800 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments in 28 major U.S. cities.