Study: Workers Losing Lunch

July 26, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — According to the last of Steelcase Inc.’s three-part Workplace Index Survey on the Nature of Work in 2005, the traditional lunch “hour” has become more of a lunch “break.”

Conducted by Opinion Research Corp. (ORC), the study surveyed approximately 700 office workers to determine the average time workers take for lunch and the reasons employees are compelled to work through part or all of their lunch hour.

The report found that 55 percent of workers take a half hour or less for lunch and women are more likely to take shorter lunches than men (61 percent vs. 48 percent). Regionally, workers in the Northeast are more likely than workers in the rest of the country to take shorter lunches (67 percent vs. 52 percent).

When compared to a similar survey conducted by Steelcase nine years ago, workers in 2005 are spending 14 percent less time breaking for lunch — 31 minutes as compared to 1996 when workers spent an average of 36 minutes for lunch.

The survey also examines the reasons behind the disappearing lunch hour.

Most respondents attribute shorter lunches to a changed work environment (35 percent), an increased pressure to perform (22 percent), and the desire to leave earlier at the end of the day (22 percent). Additionally, 21 percent of respondents use the time for individual work because more time is now spent working in teams. Only 3 percent shorten their lunch to impress their boss.

However, despite the changing work environment, 79 percent of respondents do not feel guilty for taking a full one-hour lunch.

“The traditional structure of the lunch hour has transformed as the nature of work has evolved,” explains Chris Congdon, market development manager for Steelcase. “Efficiency has become a core aspect to our day-to-day lives, at work and at home. Most employees still feel entitled to their lunch hour, but many times choose to use their time efficiently — to catch up on work, run errands or grab a quick bite to eat.”

The survey found that 67 percent of workers spend their lunchtime eating or socializing with friends while 49 percent of respondents spend lunch working with colleagues. Other top activities include running errands, reading and calling friends and family.

Seventy-five percent of younger respondents, ages 18-24, tend to spend their time socializing over lunch. Those ages 35-44 are most likely to run errands during lunch (43 percent).   

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