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Why Meal Breaks are Important for Employees

Updated on January 1, 2013
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Everyone needs to step away from the heavy workload for a break from time to time.
Everyone needs to step away from the heavy workload for a break from time to time. | Source

Everyone Needs a Break.

From time to time, everyone needs to take a break. Employees certainly fit into this category. Whether it is to take a walk, eat a meal or to just grab a cup of coffee, employees must take a break from the work at hand. The stress that accompanies the responsibilities of a job with heavy workloads and pending deadlines can cause an employee regular grief on the job. Supervisors who require employees to regularly take a break may be doing them a great favor. Those short times away from the demands of the job can be very rewarding to the employees and their employers.

Having a glass of wine with a lunch meal was not unheard for employees on their lunch breaks.  It was not typical for all jobs but there were meetings that took place with a nice alcoholic beverage.
Having a glass of wine with a lunch meal was not unheard for employees on their lunch breaks. It was not typical for all jobs but there were meetings that took place with a nice alcoholic beverage. | Source

Workplaces of the Past

In the past, employees were able to participate in activities that are no longer acceptable workplace norms. For example, it used to be acceptable to have cocktails in restaurants while employees were on their lunch breaks. These same employees could smoke cigarettes at their desks. As times have changed, employees now are almost always forbidden from drinking on the job. Drugfree workplace policies almost always ensure that no one will be drinking on the job. In addition to health risks, smoking is forbidden in most workplaces and office buildings. Rather, employees must step away from their work and go outdoors to designated smoking areas to have a cigarette. Meal breaks and smoke breaks have certainly changed over time.

Break Options for Employees

Employees who understand the importance of stepping away from a crowded desk know that a break is an important opportunity to regroup. While smoke breaks and the drinking of certain things are forbidden in today's workplace, employees understand the value of a rest break. There are different options for stepping away from the workspace. Consider the following:

  • meal break - It is still important to maintain good health by eating at the appropriate times of the day. Since many employees skip breakfast, it is important for them to have a lunch break where they can eat to be nourished and refueled for the remainder of the day.
  • take a walk - After a bite to eat, many employees take a little of their break time to take a walk. A nice walk can re-energize an employee to help face the rest of the day. In addition, a walk can be a way to get in a little exercise in the middle of the day.
  • run an errand - Since many places are only open during the day, it can be beneficial to an employee to take the time during a lunch break to run errands that could otherwise not be done before or after work. Therefore, many employees will take a break from work to just drive to the bank, stop by a store, etc., to get a jump on errands that must be done. The other benefit to running an errand during work can be to just get a change of scenery from the craziness of the workplace.
  • go home - When an employee lives near their workplace, it is quite a perk to be able to travel home during a lunch break. While at home for a brief time, one can grab quick bite to eat, spend some time with a pet, watch a little TV, etc.
  • read a book or magazine - For a great break, it is often a good idea to read a book or magazine on any topic other than the work. If there is a library nearby, going there to check out a book or magazine can be a great change of scenery. Libraries provide a quiet place for an employee to get a little reading done without interruptions.

Stress Relief

Taking a lunch break can provide a much needed break from the chaos that makes up a normal workday. While there are a variety of places to go and things to do, employers should provide ample opportunities for employees to step away from the workplace on a regular basis. Supervisors should encourage employees to take these breaks so that there can be an opportunity to wind down a bit. When employees take regular breaks during any given day at work, they seize an opportunity to get a break from the mayhem and possibly gain a new fresh look at the challenges that they face in their jobs. Supervisors must encourage employees to take their breaks for the much needed opportunity to refocus on their jobs. The benefits of such breaks are countless for both the employee and the organization.

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    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

      Thanks for a very informative article. Yes, we all need a break, our productivity and alertnerss lag a bit if we don't take it which re-vitalizes us physically and mentally. I only wish that my workplace is near my home. :)

    • ChrisMcDade8 profile image
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      Christine McDade 4 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Working close to home is definitely a perk. I have had jobs which allowed a quick commute back home for the lunch hour. Thanks for the comments.

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