The respite from work allows individuals a chance to relax, perhaps hang out with fellow employees and essentially relieve stress so as to maximize productivity in the remaining hours of the day.
However, for many in the workforce, the luxury or perhaps the decision to take a break during lunch is often bypassed as employees either choose or are forced to work during lunch.
A new paper posits that working through lunch may be OK if employees choose that themselves, and don’t feel pressured into it.
“We found that a critical element was having the freedom to choose whether to do it or not,” said researcher John Trougakos, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto. “The autonomy aspect helps to offset what we had traditionally thought was not a good way to spend break time.”
Researchers surveyed a range of administrative employees at a large North American university. Participants were asked about what they had done during their lunch breaks over a 10-day period.
Researchers then asked participants’ co-workers to report how tired their colleagues appeared by the end of each work day.
The study found that relaxing activities during lunch, freely chosen by workers, led to the least amount of reported fatigue at the end of the day.
Getting work done resulted in employees appearing more tired, but that effect was reduced when employees felt it was their decision.
Socializing, however, also led to higher levels of fatigue; something the paper says has to do with whether workers feel free to decide if they want to socialize and who they’re socializing with.
Although we might assume lunchtime socializing is a good way for employees to relax, Trougakos said that’s not necessarily the case if they socialize with other employees in the company cafeteria or if the boss is around.
Conversations may be about work, and employees may be more careful about what they say and the impression they make with their colleagues.
“You’re hanging out with people who you can’t necessarily kick back and be yourself with,” Trougakos said.
Organizations that don’t provide opportunities for employees to recover from work during the day risk lower employee effectiveness and productivity, leading to burnout, absenteeism, and higher staff turnover, he said.
This is the first study to examine the role and effect of employee autonomy on work recovery activities. Study results will be published in the Academy of Management Journal.
Source: University of Toronto