There was a time in the not too distant past when high noon marked the Lunch Break in the workplace. Sometimes a whistle would blow. Lunch time was a break in the workday offering employees about 30 minutes, give or take, to crack open the lunch bucket, unwrap the day’s sandwich from wax paper and slug down coffee from a thermos. It was time to take a breath and relax.
The Lunch Break provided a social outlet to talk about things typically unrelated to work; casual interactions amongst peers; a time to shoot the breeze and chew the fat. Tales about family happenings, sports, hobbies, a quick hand of poker and the sharing of personal anecdotes. This was Lunch Break; from the tailgate of a pickup or from the designated Lunch Room or while 120 floors up, with feet dangling from steel girders. The Lunch Break provided a true social network; a sense of community amongst workers sharing a common working experience.
Current trends have, over the last few decades, squeezed out this daily opportunity for people to break bread and catch up on daily events. Working lunches are often eaten on the fly with millions inching their way through the snaking drive-thru or relegated to a quick bite in front of a computer monitor. Typically followed by digestive aids.
In our efforts to become more efficient are we, in turn, willing to give up those daily interactions which provided a collective sense of team identity? Can we then only look back with nostalgia on the passing of the Lunch Break? Not necessarily. Bring it back.
- Designate a specific time and place for lunch. Preferably away from workstations.
- Be consistent. Lead by example.
- Forward all work calls to your voice mail. DND means Do Not Disturb. Planet earth will not spin off its axis into the abyss of deep space if you are not available to immediately accept a phone call during lunch. And if it does? Don’t worry about answering the phone.