Updated 10 October 2013

Working through lunch may be OK

Working through your lunch break may not be so bad, as long as you make that choice yourself and don't feel pressured into it.


Working through your lunch break may not be so bad, as long as you make that choice yourself and don't feel pressured into it, a new study suggests.

"We found that a critical element was having the freedom to choose whether to do it or not," John Trougakos, an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said in a university news release. "The autonomy aspect helps to offset what we had traditionally thought was not a good way to spend break time."

He and his colleagues asked administrative employees at a large university what they had done during their lunch breaks over a 10-day period. Their co-workers were then asked to report how tired the participants looked at the end of each work day.

Workers who did relaxing activities during their lunch break appeared the least tired by the end of the day. Those who worked through their lunch break appeared more tired, but less so if they had made that choice themselves, according to the study in the Academy of Management Journal.

Socialising during lunch break

The researchers also found that socialising during lunch break could lead to higher levels of fatigue by the end of the day, for instance if participants socialised with other employees in the company cafeteria or if the boss was around.

In such circumstances, conversations may be about work and employees may be more careful about what they say and about the impression they make with their colleagues, Trougakos explained.

"You're hanging out with people who you can't necessarily kick back and be yourself with," he said.

Failing to provide employees with opportunities to recover from work during the day can result in lower worker effectiveness and productivity, leading to burnout, absenteeism and higher staff turnover, according to Trougakos.

More information

The American Psychological Association discusses job stress and how to deal with it.

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