Balancing act: Lunch breaks make for a tasty work-life topic

Published: Tuesday, March 11 2014 5:48 p.m. MDT

For some reason, the pieces I've written about lunch breaks tend to be among my most popular, based on Web traffic and reader responses.

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Of all the topics I discuss regularly in this column, I've found that one in particular is eagerly devoured by readers.

You guessed it. It's lunch.

For some reason, the pieces I've written about lunch breaks tend to be among my most popular, based on Web traffic and reader responses.

I guess that shouldn't be surprising. After all, many of us have been conditioned since elementary school to look forward to lunch as a welcome respite from work — whether that work includes long division or long PowerPoint presentations.

I'm always interested in readers' opinions on this topic. For example, several people responded to a January column about an OfficeTeam survey in which nearly half of respondents said they had a daily lunch break that lasts 30 minutes or less.

As for what they do during that half-hour, the survey found that 42 percent of respondents spend their midday break socializing with colleagues, while 29 percent work during lunch, 27 percent surf the Web or social media, 25 percent catch up on personal calls or emails, 25 percent run errands, 18 percent exercise or take a walk and 3 percent read.

One reader, posting a comment online, remarked that the 3 percent figure for reading seemed too low.

"That's what I've been doing for years," this reader posted. "I usually take 30 minutes, eat a nutritious lunch and read. Occasionally (once a month) I will go out with coworkers for an hour lunch. Also, occasionally if it's not too hot or too cold I will take a walk. I'm just really surprised there are not more readers."

I am, too. On the days that I eat my noon meal in the lunchroom at work, I often see people reading novels while they dine. That seems like an excellent use of time to me.

Another reader, Hal, sent me an email that definitely put him in my good graces.

"I spend my 10-15 minutes for lunch reading the Des News online," Hal wrote. "I’m a subscriber and receive the paper at home, but I usually don’t get to it until after 9 p.m., so I read many stories online."

Bless you, Hal! Not only are you boosting the paper's online numbers, but you're also one of the remaining print subscribers. On behalf of journalists everywhere, I offer a hearty thank you! I do wish you had a longer break, though.

Another reader wrote in an email that she works in an office all day and takes one of her two designated breaks to eat her lunch, "which means I eat lunch in 15 minutes.

"First of all, our office consists of eight individuals who are in and out of the office all day," she wrote. "There are constantly at least three individuals in the office, and I don't get along with one of them, so that leaves two to talk to. We all eat lunch at different times, so I don't feel like we can work it out to eat lunch together.

"Since I spend eight hours in an office, I know how important it is to be active, take a small walk and eat healthy. I know those things are the keys to living a healthy, stable life."

It sounds like she's making good use of her brief break times. And even though she often eats quickly and alone, she wrote that people shouldn't feel too sorry for her.

"Even though lunch isn't a great time to socialize, we most definitely make time for it during the rest of the day," she wrote.

I'm glad to hear that, as I believe that a little socializing — at the right time and in the right amount — helps make life in the office more fun and interesting. And when people are engaged in a work life that they enjoy, they tend to be more productive.

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