Lunch Break: Offices Need to Make Room for Employee Meals
In a few forward-thinking offices, workplace culture around breaks and lunches is changing, for the better.
Fewer than 20 percent of American office workers take a lunch break, partly because the average workplace doesn’t have a lunch or break room.
Photography Courtesy: Martijn van Exel via Flickr
Considering how meal breaks are revered in other parts of the world—namely Spain, France, and Scandinavia—it would seem like lunch culture in the U.S. is almost nonexistent. Not long ago, I remember an overzealous manager marching over to human resources to inquire about a legal recourse to prevent my coworkers and I from taking coffee breaks. Luckily, this attempt was rebuffed by HR—and rightfully so. Research shows that daily respites in the form of food or social breaks can have positive effects on employee’s and their morale. Yet, break rooms continue to be a design afterthought. Here are some ways break rooms can impact the work environment:
Less than half of states require employers to provide a meal break while only one in five Americans actually step away from their desks for a midday meal. Staying in one environment for too long, according to University of California Davis professor Kimberly Elsbach, “is really detrimental to creative thinking.” When employee creativity suffers so can a company’s bottom-line. Elsbach goes on to say exposing oneself to natural environments—even if for a short walk around the black—can be “restorative.” Staff rooms, which at first glance can seem like wasted space, actually facilitate employee conversations. These interactions often entail the sharing of ideas among employees. Just ask Google. They credit initiatives such as their Google Cafes as one of the secrets to their success and innovation.
Aside from stifling great ideas, staying in one place (i.e. your office chair) for several hours can cause aches and pains, not to mention weight gain. Break rooms can encourage mobility among employees. A recent study from the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that five-minute walks throughout the day could undo the effects of prolonged sitting. Not to mention, a quick trip to an office canteen also helps with blood flow and metabolism.
So in short, yes, break rooms are a welcomed addition to any office layout because they help to keep workers happy and motivated.