Are Lunch Breaks Overrated?

Are Lunch Breaks Overrated?

Taking a proper lunch break where you actually get up from your desk and relish your food may seem like a wondrous myth. On the other hand, maybe that half hour or hour is best spent eating at the desk.

Photo by Diego Cervo

Rachael Larimore writes on Slate that eating lunch at her desk and cramming more work into her workday means she has more time for all the other responsibilities in her life:

Everything we might prefer to working is crammed into one- or two-hour slices: an hour to eat and drink, an hour devoted to “caring for others.” If you’re an office worker with a few kids, you first must wake up and endure a mad scramble to get everyone dressed and out the door-that’s an hour or two of non-quality family time. Then there’s the commute. If it’s 30 minutes each way, that’s another hour wasted. And then you work for eight or nine hours. If you take an hour for lunch, that’s just another hour that you’re not spending at home with your spouse and kids or at the gym. It’s another hour that you’re paying the sitter. With lunch, an office drone could leave home at 8 a.m. and not get home until 6:30 p.m. When are you supposed to cook dinner? How are you supposed to get to Little League on time?

Not everyone can choose to take a lunch break or not. Some people have an extra half hour or hour added to their work day regardless. But if you have or had a choice, would you use your midday break as a time to mentally recharge or to get more work done so you can get out the door earlier? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

I’d Rather Eat at My Desk [Slate]


  • Mentally recharge all the way! Especially when you are behind a screen all day.
    I work long hours but at least the company I’m with gives you the choice of taking an hour
    lunch break if you need it. It is not heavily encouraged, and most ppl will only take maybe 30 mins and
    then plow on, but you won’t be in trouble if you need an hours worth.
    It all depends on where and who you work for you work I think. Last place I worked for had hour lunch breaks as well, but no one ever took them because there is too much work to be done.
    It’s in your own hands I guess.

    Also, eating at your desk might be convenient, but I hate getting sh*t stuck
    in my keyboard so I never do 🙂

    • I eat at my desk and read the paper online. Unless I can’t avoid it, I prefer to not go outside at lunch, as the temp change from the sealed environment of my office usually leaves me feeling uncomfortable.

  • I usually eat in front of my monitor because everyone else does and I would feel like a slacker going out to eat for a half an hour or an hour to recharge. I do however think workplaces should encourage their staff to take regular breaks where they leave the desk, go to a lunch room or out of the office completely to get their mind off work and have a rest.

    The last few companies I have worked for haven’t done this and I always feel like I shouldn’t take a break. And it just causes more stress. So I now make sure I try and get outside, go for a walk and get away each day.

    • Mike I don’t think you’ll be seen as a slacker… well to that, I don’t know what you do for a living so maybe you will.

      Maybe convince your colleagues to join you out of the office, that way everyone is a slacker and it will no longer matter.

  • Never been a huge fan of an extended lunch break, but then again I’ve been lucky enough to work in places where I’m assessed on how much work I get done, not how long I’m chained to a desk.

    That said, my usual work day tends to have a series of small breaks rather than a long lunch break. A 30 minute break during the workday is more than long enough for me to recharge my batteries.

  • Rachel Larimore works from home, so the quicker she gets her work done, the quicker she is done for the day. What she doesn’t realise about “Office drones” is that often they are going to be at work until 5, regardless of whether they took a lunch break or not. So really for a lot of people she is saying “Work an extra hour a day, you’ll have more time to spend with your family” which doesn’t make sense.

  • If only we could get away from the archaic standard of being measured in hours spent at the office & instead measured in work performance/quality. It seems for a lot of us this will be a long time coming. Even in today’s society, working from home is frowned upon when I know that I will usually work harder, longer & the quality is of a higher standard due to less distractions and pointless meetings (even with kids).

  • Interesting article, I had been thinking about speaking to my boss about having a shorter lunch break, or none at all, to get me out of the office earlier of an arvo as I often do anyway. I really still need 10-15 to go and grab a sandwich though, can’t go without altogether.

    Yeah well that was till I seem to have found myself with a girlfriend who wants to have lunch every day anyway… Maybe as the days get shorter I’ll have to think about it again, as it’s impossible to get anything done when it’s dark before you leave the office.

  • sometimes I eat in front of the monitor.. sometimes I take a looong lunch. But i guess im lucky in that regard. Nobody is watching the clock.. only the output

  • Speaking as someone that was subjected to illegal 20 minute lunch breaks I can say that I value them. Even 30 minutes isn’t really enough time to relax and enjoy your meal. I envy anyone that has a hour break. I would eat at my desk sometimes not because I was trying to catch up on work, but because it took me 15 minutes to cook my lunch and then I would have to eat it whilst on shift. If you are trying to squeeze extra time into your day to get other things done, wake up earlier.

  • Work in the city / near places interesting to have lunch = take a break

    Work in an industrial/commercial park of concrete, no trees, one takeaway down stairs and more 10 minutes walk away = cbf.

  • If I’m in flow, don’t stop me. That hour break that knocks me out of flow and breaks my concentration on a complex task will actually cost me 1.5 hours due to the extra half hour I have to spend trying to reorganize the work in my brain and get back into the flow state.

    Some days, I require a break. I take it. Some days, it’s lunch in the lunchroom or at my desk reading a magazine. Some days it’s a walk to a nearby deli or cafe. Sometimes it’s half an hour long, sometimes it’s 90 minutes if we go to a busy restaurant.

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