A study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Academy of Management Journal challenges commonly held notions about the value of the lunch break. Researchers asked employees to describe what they did during their lunch breaks and then asked their co-workers to determine how tired the participants appeared at the end of the day. Participants seemed more fatigued regardless of whether they worked through lunch or socialized with co-workers, but the effects were lessened if they believed they had control over whether to work through lunch, whether to socialize, and with whom they could socialize.
What’s the Big Idea?
Lunches that include “people who you can’t necessarily kick back and be yourself with” and/or involve work-related conversations can be more stressful than simply staying at one’s desk. However, working through lunch is only less stressful if it’s by choice, says study co-author and University of Toronto professor John Trougakos: “The autonomy aspect helps to offset what we had traditionally thought was not a good way to spend break time.” Offering opportunities for relaxation — in whatever form the employee thinks best — can lead to increased effectiveness and productivity.