Let’s NOT Do Lunch

by on May 7, 2010 | posted in Uncategorized

There’s a pretty common policy in corporate America that I hate – the one hour lunch. I don’t get it.

There are a few things implicitly long with this standard, and, to some extent, the 30 minute version as well.

  • The 1-hour lunch is an implication that we need a hefty break from our jobs. If you enjoy your job, why take a break? Get it all done, now. Taking a “break” implies that what you were doing was something of rigor or dislike. Your job shouldn’t be – if it is, quit.
  • It’s excessive. Yes, we do need to eat, but we don’t need an hour to do so. It takes ten minutes to eat if you have the food in your office. It’s possible to do passive work, i.e. read up on relevant news and/or read something useful, while eating as well. I’m okay with taking 30 minutes to go get some food you particularly enjoy, but you are very capable of doing this on your way to work without losing transportation time.

If you’re not using this time in a productive fashion, you’re wasting your day. I am perfectly okay with “doing lunch” as a way to talk business or develop relationships, but when that isn’t happening, and you’re just sitting at a table reading the Sports page, someone else is getting ahead.

Do something that’s going to make a difference, somewhere.  You should be able to find something that you both enjoy AND creates something of value. If you can’t, you need to reevaluate your life.

I know it’s a government requirement to take a lunch – however, it’s not a government requirement that you leave and go smoke a cigarette. Clock out and work on your personal project. Pump out a chapter of that book, develop some business relationships online, or run to the gym to get your workout in, now.

A wasted hour every day five days a week fifty-two weeks a year forty years straight adds up to a lot of damn waste. Don’t be wasteful, please. The world deserves better.

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  • dennis

    This post is the epitome of my last two positions. The first one I never left for lunch once the entire time I was there, ate at my desk while I did work or something relatively productive, and didn’t think twice about it because I loved doing it. Last position, everyday that noon rolled around was like Christmas morning because I got a chance to step back from work and forget about it for an hour and come back to it later with a fresh mind. I guess it’s a good thing I took your advice and no longer work at that firm anymore. Great post.

    • Ross

      Thanks Dennis. It really seems like a great way to evaluate your job – if you need to eat, quit. If not, you know you’ve got something good going.

  • http://www.kaizenvision.com Aileen

    Great statement, “I know it’s a government requirement to take a lunch – however, it’s not a government requirement that you leave and go smoke a cigarette.Clock out and work on your personal project.” It’s amazing how much one can accomplish in an hour if they plan it & execute. It can be a bit of a challenge to go against the grain and take that hour to do something beneficial, when everyone is inviting you to join them at the sandwich shop downstairs…but it’s worth it. It creates a momentum and deepens the motivation rather than deepening the fatigue of life/ of work.
    Your words should be on the refrigerator in every office break room.

    • http://www.rosshudgens.com Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Aileen. I think there’s a healthy balance where you can maintain your relationship with coworkers while still getting work done – just go to lunch every so often, not every day. And if your coworkers tire of getting shot down when inviting you, make sure you extend the hand back every time you go to lunch to let them know that you still enjoy your relationship with them.

  • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

    The problem is that if you made it “optional,” management would find a way to bludgeon people into not taking lunch at all.

    Lesser of two evils.

    • http://www.rosshudgens.com Ross Hudgens

      Good point. Then just take it and work on your own stuff – if you don’t feel connected enough to your work/business to want to work on it during lunches, you probably should be working on your own stuff anyways to break away from the corporate monotony.

  • http://www.gunnarandreassen.com Gunnar Andreassen

    Here in Norway its uncommon – and I always work while luncing…

    • Ross

      Sounds like you’ve got it down. We don’t want to jump to the extremes of places like the U.K. where I’ve heard the normal shift is 12 hours, though.

  • http://www.hitetech.com Derek

    Might as well take the lunch break if it’s paid.

    I do see your point how this pertains to self-employment. I wouldn’t and I don’t take lunch breaks when I’m at home trying to get my business started. I’ll grab food and come back to my PC and eat while I’m doing work, that way, I stay productive and don’t waste an hour of my time feeding my face instead of accomplishing tasks.

    • Ross

      Derek, it is my viewpoint that “self-employment” should be the ultimate goal. Some sort of residual income should be made on the side, or, you should be so committed to the business you’re working for (because of brand evangelism or incentive systems), that you would want to positively contribute at lunch. If not, quit.

  • Tina

    Hi Ross,
    Statistically we are working harder and longer then ever before. What about those of us who use their lunch break to handle personal responsibilities like doctor’s appointments. Where I live many of these places are not open after work hours or on weekends. I use my lunch break as a tool to successfully balance home and work life. Not wasteful.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Then it’s to your benefit, definitely. But I would say that if you describe your “work life” as “work life”, you don’t enjoy your job and need to explore different avenues.

      By all means, handle the personal things on your break – those aren’t “breaks”, those are productive things you’re accomplishing.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Paul

    You work 80 hours a week and you do not lunch …
    It is a bit sad. I don’t judge your life, and I hope you are happy. But sounds like you live to work.

    • http://www.rosshudgens.com Ross Hudgens

      I currently love what I do. I don’t sit in an isolated office, I have others that I work with and chat it up with all day, even though I rarely “do lunch”.

      I definitely work hard and currently “live to work”, but I also enjoy what I do. But I will be on a beach all weekend in Southern California. :)

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