The American Lunch Break is Being Killed by Too Much Stress, Too Little Time

October 1, 2017 - 2 minutes read

According 20 years of polling data from Gallup, lunch is slowly dying off in the American workplace. In the 1990s, Gallup found that most American workers took at least a 30-minute lunch break each day. By 2012, only about one-third did so. Now fewer than 20 percent of American workers report regularly taking any lunch break at all, and 67% of all workers report eating one or more meals at their desk each week.


Why is this? In part, it’s the stress that comes with a jobless economic recovery: The economy bounced back, but with little corresponding job growth, many workers are gripped in a compulsion to perpetual look and feel productive.

Ironically, according to a recent whitepaper released by CBRE and the University of Twente (Amsterdam), improved nutrition and active breaks (where workers step away from their workspace altogether) bring a 20% to 45% bump in performance.  More importantly, worker’s see an even bigger bump in emotional welfare:

  • 78% reported feeling more energized
  • 66% happier
  • 52% felt healthier

In other words, despite the image of the “top performer” who “powers through lunch” and thrives on “caffeine and stress,” real top-performers are taking a mid-day break to recharge and feeling good about it.


But the harder nut to crack is the second factor killing lunch: Time. The median American lunch break is just 21 to 30 minutes long.  On that schedule, you can forget about running out to grab a value meal; in many workplaces, employees hardly have enough time to wait in line, microwave their Hot Pockets, scarf them down, and get back to work.


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