In the latest round of disappointing news from the internet, a new study has revealed that a good chunk of workers out there — a full 20% — worry their bosses will look down on them for taking a lunch break. Even more disappointingly, it turns out they’re right!
34% of bosses consider lunch breaks when evaluating work performance, and 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break. Of course they don’t; not when nearly a quarter of bosses out there think of it as a sign of laziness!
Come on, bosses — you’re better than this. A well-rested employee is a much more productive one; employees who push through and work their lunch break are less happy, experience more turnover, and burn out faster. There’s nothing productive about that. More importantly — don’t you want your employees to be healthy? Don’t you want them to lead balanced lives? Or do you just want robots who will input your data mechanically for fifteen hours a day before imploding in stress and despair?
If you want your employees to be productive, creative, and proactive, then you need to make sure they’re taking breaks. YOU, their leader/boss/manager, need to encourage them to take care of themselves — and that includes lunch breaks! It has to come from you, because (as this study clearly shows) if they don’t hear it from you, they don’t know whether they’ll be punished for taking that lunch break. You’ve got to lead the way.
You need to say it
Don’t just think it, don’t just smile when they take a lunch break — use your words and specifically tell your team that you expect them to take lunch breaks. If you see someone working through lunch, encourage them to stop. Make announcements at team meetings. Send memos. Give your team positive encouragement to take breaks — don’t expect them to read your mind. Remember, they’ve probably had a boss in the past who looked down on them for taking breaks, so they have no way of knowing that’s not what you’ll do, too.
You need to show it
You’re a part of this team — are you taking a lunch break? Leaving the office for a walk? Maybe inviting an employee out to eat? You’re the creator of your team’s culture, and your team is going to emulate what you do, even more than what you say. Show them you really do value a healthy balance, and enforce your own daily lunch break.
You need to create it
If your team is so overworked they don’t have the time or the capacity to take lunch breaks, it won’t matter what you say, or how many breaks you take. In fact, encouraging them to take lunch breaks when they just don’t feel like they can will probably make things worse and cause resentment. Be aware of your team’s workload, and make sure that workload allows for a healthy work-life balance. They should have space for lunch. Not only is this the right thing to do as their leader, in the long run this is going to be waaaay better for your bottom line.
That’s a much higher value to your business than an overworked office drone who’s stress levels keep them from truly succeeding.
Don’t be like the bosses in that survey. We live in a world where too many employers look at the short-term, and work to milk every last ounce of energy from their team, rather than building a healthy group that can do more and go further. It’s short-sighted and it’s cruel, neither of which describes a good leader. Your team culture is up to you — so set the standard of health and wellness. If you do that, then you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the results: a happier team, and a more profitable bottom line.