Are companies embracing the old-school lunch hour again?

Everyone looks forward to their lunch hour, typically a midday break where you can grab a sandwich, run an errand, make a personal call or just sit with a friend or two and recharge after a busy morning at work.

Research shows that a designated lunch hour boosts employee morale and energy and is a much-needed respite for employees.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Research International, an employee’s one-hour lunch break boosts health, reduces stress and increases work performance. Data from this study reports a lunch break leads to a drop in absenteeism, plus will improve job satisfaction and attitude.

There’s even a trend where businesses or retail stores cease operations for a designated time so staff members can take their lunch hour at the same time.

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Adam Lyons, a business adviser and founder of the SMART Blueprint, said before the pandemic he always advised clients to stagger employee lunch hours. But, since pandemic restrictions have been eased, he said it’s important to incentivize people to come back into the office or a store.

“Solo lunch breaks are not incentivizing, which is why I recently have started to recommend clients have their employees take lunch at the same time,” explained Lyons. “We have found that this helps with team building, morale and general happiness for employees.”

Although this collective lunch-hour arrangement may affect the bottom line for businesses that choose to be closed from noon to 1 p.m., Lyons said it pays off again in team morale. 

“Also, on a more personal note, we’ve all seen the sign on a small business that says ‘Be back at 1 p.m.’ I always tell consumers and my family ‘go enjoy your day and come back.’ They’re taking a well-needed break – something we all need,” Lyons continued.

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Scott Killmer, CEO of Car Windshields, says he closes his business to give a lunch break to his staff every day for an hour.

“I take a break for myself too,” he said. “Since I was a worker myself, I believe my staff deserves a full break during the day.”

He said he has experienced a few barriers to his policy.

“I don’t face any consequences because I have posted the lunch breaks on every social media page and people don’t often drop by during that time,” Killmer shared. “I think stopping your business for an hour won’t affect it at all, instead it will motivate your employees to work harder. They will acknowledge the fact that you care for them as well, and it is quite important for a successful business.”

Coworkers eating lunch

Coworkers take a break to eat lunch.

Similarly, Marina Vaamonde, owner of HouseCashin, a marketplace for off-market houses for sale, says she closes her business for lunch as well.

“I implemented this policy because I realized that my employees were eating lunch at their desks. This is not only unhealthy but signaled to me that my employees are under so much pressure that they feel like they can’t disconnect from the job. I implemented the policy to close the office for an hour during lunch and my employees love it so far.”

Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, said there is a set of benefits to a standard lunch break relating to the relationships among employees.

“A routine that allows and encourages everyone to eat at the same time means that employees can spend that time with each other,” said Woolley. “This enables them to get to know one another. That can help foster a better work environment and a higher level of commitment to the organization, as well as more effective working relationships.”

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She explained that even learning small personal details about each other can allow coworkers to anticipate an issue or a conflict or give someone more of the benefit of the doubt when they are late or there is a misunderstanding.

“Doing so over lunch enhances the likelihood of these benefits, as people typically have a more positive impression of others they interact with while they are eating,” Woolley added.

Even national retail chains are joining the lunch hour bandwagon. You may have noticed your neighborhood CVS Pharmacy closes for lunch from 1:30 to 2 p.m. 

“We want to make sure our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are at their best, which means supporting their schedules accordingly,” CVS Pharmacy spokesperson Amy Thibault said. “While we’ve always had a meal break policy, we implemented a pre-scheduled, uninterrupted lunch break across our pharmacies in late-February. This break gives our CVS Pharmacy teams a predictable and consistent daily pause while minimizing disruption to our patients. Most of our pharmacies are now closed from 1:30 p.m.-2 p.m. local time.”

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Thibault says signs are posted in stores letting patients know that the pharmacy is closed and will reopen soon.

“Prescribers who call the pharmacy are sent to voicemail and patients who call the pharmacy are notified that the pharmacy is closed and asked to call back after 2 p.m. when the pharmacy is open,” she said.

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