Managing WellnessRunning Your Business

How to Normalize Lunch Breaks Away From Desks—and Why You Should


  • Workplace lunch breaks are a simple way to optimize employee health and wellness

  • By eating lunch away from their desks, employees may be more satisfied and productive at work

  • Encourage employees to eat and mingle with their coworkers by offering discounts to local eateries or hosting luncheons

Posted by February 20, 2020

Lunch breaks—who has time for those? Well, these small pauses in the workday might be more important than you realize for your employees’ overall health and wellness.

Lunchtime affords employees an opportunity to rest each day, which can help prevent burnout. Additionally, pausing to break bread gives coworkers a chance to mingle and form rewarding relationships.

By encouraging employees to take breaks—including a real lunch break—employers can optimize job performance and curb workplace dissatisfaction.

The Case for Workplace Lunch Breaks

Stress and burnout can significantly impede employee performance. When employees are overworked and don’t take breaks, you may notice the quality of their work plummet. For employees who skip lunch altogether, hunger can diminish their energy and focus. Not to mention, digital eye strain can lead to eye pain, headaches and vision problems.

Taking a lunch break doesn’t mean eating at your desk while working, though. Encourage employees to get out of the office during mealtime to de-stress and decompress.

Benefits of Employee Meal Breaks

Employers and employees alike can reap numerous health, wellness and productivity benefits by taking breaks away from workspaces.

One study found that when employees were offered one or more coffee breaks and a longer lunch break, they experienced fewer musculoskeletal symptoms and reduced fatigue and distress. Another study yielded similar results, reporting that work breaks may help employees feel more relaxed. A third study, in which employees took 10-minute breaks for physical activity, found that workers felt more productive after a regularly scheduled pause.

The number of and length of work breaks you offer is entirely up to you. However, a good baseline is at least two 10-minute breaks sprinkled throughout the day plus a longer lunch break, between 45 and 60 minutes, allowing enough time for employees to actually leave the office. Getting employee input before making a final decision can ensure everyone is happy with this workplace benefit.

Encouraging Employees to Take Lunch Breaks

Don’t just suggest that employees take breaks away from their desk—set an example. If you eat in the break room or at a nearby cafe, you can encourage your workers to do the same. Additionally, the more normal small breaks for coffee or active recess seem, the more likely they will be adopted by your staffers.

You can also encourage employees to take lunch breaks away from their desks by:

Creating On-Site Lunch Lounges or Cafes

For employees who prefer to stay on-site during work breaks, consider offering a lunch area or workplace cafe to entice them to mosey away from their desks. Providing this space doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, and it encourages relaxation and refreshment, as well as interactions between employees.

Offering Employee Discounts at Restaurants

Encourage employees to break away from their computer screens by partnering up with local eateries. The fruits of these collaborations could be anything from meal discounts to deals on gift cards for your employees. You could also offer stipends for meals at these participating restaurants.

Organizing Team-Building Luncheons

Consider hosting company-wide luncheons to promote cross-department collaboration and give employees a chance to mingle and reenergize before they tackle the rest of the workday. You can also work team-building exercises into these catered lunches, such as opening with ice breakers or having employees at each table collaborate on a small challenge. Not to mention, providing catered meals every so often can boost morale.

As an employer, you should preach the benefits of small breaks throughout the day—such as how they can optimize one’s health and focus at work—and do what you can to curb desk lunches. For instance, you could invite an employee out for coffee whom you always see eating at their desk, or distribute a one-sheeter about your workplace break policy.

Most importantly, send the message that not only is it OK to walk away from your desk sometimes, it’s also largely beneficial for both individual employees and the business at large.

To learn more about how you can manage employee health and wellness, check out United Concordia’s Benefits Bridge.

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