After reading a Career Builder article on why the lunch break is going extinct, I couldn’t help but add a few comments about this myself.
It seems there’s a trend in offices these days for skipping lunches. Hectic schedules, picking up kids after school, flexing time for doctor and dental appointments, after-work activities, avoiding traffic, and just wanting to leave the office to be home one hour earlier are all reasons most of us opt out of our lunchtime. That one magical hour of “me” time is a precious commodity when you don’t get paid for it. It’s a tiny option where we can exert a little control over our job schedules. Ah, that one, great big hour!
In most of the companies I worked for in the past, lunchtime was considered a necessity. Most large companies have a cafeteria and this was a time to gather with colleagues and chat over everything from soup to nuts.
I used to work out at lunchtime in the fitness center which was probably the best thing for me to do, because sitting at a desk all day long with no physical activity – even a short walk – can be a playground for health issues up the road, and after working out, I managed to eat a sandwich at my desk which was okay by my boss. But at least I got away from my desk.
Also, I admit to a few times of pulling late nights so I was exhausted and sleepy at work. Our women’s washroom had a couch in the coatroom before entering the bathroom. I took full advantage of taking a cat nap for a half hour, got a second wind, and went back to work refreshed. Thank goodness that was rare. The men got upset because they didn’t have a couch in the men’s room!
I need that hour of me time – paid or not. I like to play Scrabble on my lunchtime instead of taking that walk these days, but I think I should start walking on an afternoon break again. The only problem I have is when walking outside on a beautiful sunny day; I don’t want to walk back into work. It makes me feel like a child again not wanting to go back to school after recess. The good thing about playing Scrabble is that I truly believe it’s helping my memory. In fact, the advocates are telling us to play “recall” games like Scrabble to stimulate and exercise our memory. And for those of us in our dotage, we know how important that is. Exercise in any form, from aerobics to simple walking releases chemicals in the brain for our memory and general well-being. It’s good to get a mental break – no matter how busy one is.
Author, Eve Tahmincioglu, who wrote, “Why the lunch break is going extinct,” cites that there are companies who are doing away with lunch breaks altogether. Each state has its own laws regarding break times. “Illinois state labor laws require employers to give a lunch break of at least 20 minutes to all employees who work a shift of 7.5 hours or more.”
Here in Illinois, the break rules are as follows:
- The FLSA does not require employers to provide their workers with lunch or coffee breaks. Employers, of course, are free to allow their employees lunch breaks or any type of short break. If employers do offer short breaks (up to 20 minutes), they must compensate employees for the time they spend on employer-approved breaks. In other words, the federal law doesn’t require Illinois employers to allow their workers to take breaks. However, if they do, the law requires them to pay for the time. For example, if a worker makes $10 per hour and his employer allows him to take a 20-minute break, that worker must receive the full $10 for the hour even if he only worked 40 minutes and spent 20 minutes on a break. Finally, the FLSA does not require that employers pay their employees for lunch breaks (typically, 30 minutes or more with no work performed).
- Illinois state labor laws do not require employers to provide their employees with short breaks (usually five to 20 minutes). That means an Illinois employer can require her workers spend the entire shift doing work with no short breaks other than a lunch break.
- Unlike the FLSA, Illinois state labor laws require employers to give a lunch break of at least 20 minutes to all employees who work a shift of 7.5 hours or more. The employer must provide the lunch break no later than five hours after the employee’s shift starts. Despite the fact that the FLSA does not require lunch breaks, Illinois employers must follow the stricter state rules.
Most companies I’ve worked for in the past, had steady break times at 10:00AM and 3:00PM. We looked forward to those times to be able to get a snack at the cafeteria or get some fresh air, whether you smoked or just walked around.
I think there’s another social aspect we are losing in the interim which could be argued as good or bad. Humans, as social beings need to relate to others in a physical way more than we think we do. Sure we can do a lot of texting, emailing and Facebooking, but in reality we need to experience good Karma with one another face to face. In fact, I was chastised by a friend of mine several years ago for eating lunch at my desk, she said, “Oh dear, you eat lunch at your desk? That’s bad karma. Don’t do it.” I took her advice and ate in the lunchroom with my colleagues from then on.
I think the flipside is keeping to oneself at break times may avoid bad karma when conflicting personalities collide.
Well, it’s now lunchtime for me and I’m playing my daily Scrabble game. Later, I am going to take that walk!