Lunch Breaks: 1 Hour Too Long

Tim Sackett Bad HR, Change, Culture, Food and Drink, Good HR, HR, Tim Sackett, Total Rewards, Trench HR, Work Life Balance

We do a lot of stuff in our organizations for the sake of, well, “we’ve always done it that way” kind of thinking.  Why do we have our employees show up at 8am and leave at 5pm?  Is it because that’s when your customers need you to be there?  My bank is open from 9am to 6pm.  I hardly ever make it to the bank when they are open – I need them to be open at either 7am or 7pm – but they aren’t open those hours.  My barber is open from 7am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, 8am to noon on Saturday.  So, on Saturday mornings there are 300 hundred people waiting in line.  Wouldn’t it make sense for them to be open like 1pm to 9pm?  Most businesses would be better off with different hours, but tradition keeps them open during hours when the majority of their customers probably can’t come in – it’s silly!

What about your lunch break?  In the business world, it’s almost always from noon to 1pm, or hours right around that time – 11:30am to 12:30pm, etc.  1 hour.  Does it take you 1 hour to eat your lunch?  Probably if you go out to lunch at a sit down restaurant, but anything fast food, or sandwich shop, or bring your lunch to work and you can definitely be done in under 30 minutes.  Take a look at this chart from Slate:

Basically, Americans spend a total each and every day, on average, using 1.1 hours to eat (that’s a total of all meals, snacks, etc.).  So, spending 1 hour to have your business power lunch, seems a bit long.  I spend more hours per week with my co-workers then I spend with my kids.  Taking an extra 5 hours for lunches, when that time could be spent with my family, doesn’t seem like the balance I would like.  Yet, organizations continue to plod along with 1 hour lunches.  I think organizations that allow this to be flexible are moving in the right direction – I can eat my lunch in 20 minutes – so I’m going home 40 minutes earlier, or something like that – seems to make the most sense.

HR Pros see this and they cringe, right?  Why?  Because as soon as you put this type of policy into practice, what happens?  You’ll have employees who will continue to use an hour, but say they only use 30 minutes, and leave at 4:30pm – and boom, you’ve got a problem.  That’s the real issue at play here. We don’t make the changes we should because one or two bad eggs usually ruin it – plus the majority of our managers are conflict avoidant and don’t want to have to deal with the bad eggs, so let’s just make those kinds of policies.  Case closed.  Silly! Again!

So, HR PRos – what do you think – are your lunch “hours” too long?  If so, what should they be? Hit me in the comments.