When it comes to the lunch break at work, assumptions run amok. And when it comes to feeling overworked, most Canadians agree they need a break. To find out if Canadians are benefitting from the breather offered by the basic lunch break, TSheets conducted a global lunch break survey and asked 15,000 employees in 27 countries how they are making use of the standard workday rest.
The surprises started early. Despite being touted as the “most overworked developed nation,” the average lunch break for U.S. employees was actually three minutes longer than the combined average of the 10 European nations surveyed and two minutes more than Canada’s.
To turn up the dial, we asked Canadian employees how they’re utilizing their lunch breaks, how they value the time, if more time is needed, and what appeals to their taste buds and wallets.
A 30-min norm and guidelines to follow
While legislation on workday breaks vary across Canada, the most common practice is a 30-minute break after every five hours of work. Our data supports the status quo, with half of respondents reporting their lunch break is 30 minutes long. Overall, 89% of respondents get a lunch break, though not consistently. And of these, 57% get a lunch break regardless of how many hours they work.
In most cases, employers are not required to pay for lunch breaks unless an employee:
- Is not allowed to leave the workplace during the break.
- Has no control over their break.
- Has agreed to a contract that says otherwise.
- Is required to be available to work during the break.
Meal of choice: Affordable and simple, healthy and tasty
For those with a lunch break, 63% say they always use the time to eat, and 78% rate their typical lunch as “healthy” or “very healthy.” But in the order of importance, taste rules supreme, trumping nutrition, convenience, and even price in lunchtime decisions.
It soon becomes clear why budgets are a less important concern. 38% say they only need to spend between $5 and $10 per meal, while another 22% can satisfy their hunger with just $3 to $5. A typical meal consists of a sandwich or wrap, often alongside soup or salad.
Toronto company takes a stand
More than 6 in 10 employees say their employer neither encourages nor discourages them from staying at their desks during their lunch break, but authority figures still play a role in the equation.
10% of respondents say they work through lunch to impress their employer or because everyone does it and they’d feel guilty otherwise. Over half say they skip lunch because there is too much work and not enough staff to share the load, revealing the state of management itself.
One company is trying to change that. In 2017, CBRE Ltd., a commercial real estate service company declared employees could no longer eat food in work areas in its offices, which includes the Toronto location.
“The healthy desk policy is an internal CBRE policy implemented across our offices to encourage our staff to take a break from their desks, connect with colleagues, and promote healthier workstations,” Lisa Fulford-Roy, the Senior Vice President for Client Strategy of CBRE Canada, told The Globe and Mail,
For fans of al-desko dining, here’s more food for thought
Roughly 20% of our survey respondents said they usually eat at their desk. CBRE employee Mackenzie Sharpe was among them. He had his doubts when the company announced the food-free policy. He was worried that being away from his desk would distract him from work. But he soon found himself more productive and focused thanks to the change in location and chance conversations.
What few people realize is that desks are home to 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. Unsavoury guests aren’t the only danger. Eating and snacking al-desko can add more than 1,000 extra calories each week to your diet, mostly from added sugars, refined grains, and solid fats.
In the upper crust of satisfaction and constant multitasking
When compared to Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., Canadian employees are generally more satisfied with the state of the modern lunch break. 60% like their lunch break as is, while 32% say they wish their break was longer.
When asked about how they’d spend the time if given a longer break, respondents give the same long list of to-dos, suggesting the provision may never serve its purpose.
An overworked nation benefits no one
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In the case of employees, all work and no break is a sure way to burnout. No employer would want overworked employees running their business. The good news is, most employees know better too.
Not sure how to get started? Here’s how to get your team to take the breaks they need and deserve.
1. Make it interactive
CBRE’s move may not be for everyone, but they’re definitely on the right track. Consider scheduling physical activities throughout the day for your team. It can be 60 seconds of planking or squats, a round of trivia or a walk around the block—basically, anything to unchain employees from their desks to recharge and return refreshed.
2. Leverage technology
Many of those bogged down by work may be doing labour-intensive tasks that can be easily streamlined with automation. Think about it. Are you still using paper timesheets, entering payroll data manually or correcting inaccurate invoices? That’s a lot of time that can be used for breaks instead.
3. Introduce flexibility
It’s evident how many employees are willing to sacrifice their breaks to catch up with life. Consider a flexible arrangement if possible, whether it’s compressing work days, telecommuting, or a flex daily schedule. This can help employees to achieve the work-life balance they need to bring their whole self at work and do their best work.
Methodology: TSheets commissioned Pollfish to survey 600 Canadians in February 2019, aged 18+ and employed for wages, to learn more about their habits and views pertaining to lunch breaks.TSheets designed the survey and welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original source is cited with attribution to “TSheets”.