A Millennial lunch = lazy? Maybe it’s the opposite.

Desk-based lunch breaks (if you can call them “breaks”) are increasingly common at work—begrudgingly accepted by some and expected by others.

In any given company staffed with today’s multiple-generation mix of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z, the lunch hour often comes and goes without much fanfare. But for Millennials, who are now up to age 40(!), there’s a not-so-unspoken rule that taking a lunch break is a sign of laziness. So, where does that leave the Millennials?

Unhappy and hungry. In a recent national study by napkin brand, Tork, 37% of Millennials admitted they don’t feel empowered to take a lunch break.

Why is that? Truth be told, many of them are concerned their coworkers will shame them for not being committed enough or not working hard enough. Unfortunately, their concerns are warranted.

“Lunch break shaming” is real for Millennials

I recently gave my take on the national study findings during a live, on-air interview with Lynn Smith of HLN. Watch the interview about Millennials below:

Jason Dorsey talks on-air with Lynn Smith on HLN

As I shared with Lynn on Headline News, there’s real shaming going on in the workforce about people taking a lunch break–and actually disconnecting. Millennials feel intense pressure to perform at work…and they feel if they take a lunch, they’re going to be looked down upon as not committed or not loyal.

This is particularly ironic, because the national study also said that Boomers were least worried about taking a lunch break and certainly not concerned that a mid-day food break would get them labeled lazy.

Also ironic is that, while Millennial lunch-takers are shamed for not pulling their weight, the reality is humans need a break during the day to eat in order to perform at our highest levels. So, while Gen X and Boomer employees may be lunching at their desks—or, at the very least, expecting Millennials to be desk dining—not taking a break actually can reduce productivity, which means more work with less energy as a direct byproduct.

But here’s the biggest eye-opener. The allure and appeal of a lunch break is so real for Millennials that the national study revealed 16% of them would be willing to take a 10% cut in pay to ensure they could take a lunch break every day. That figure is nearly double the percentage of Gen Xers and more than three times the percentage of Boomers who would take the cut to take a lunch break.

Encourage lunch breaks to drive productivity and retention

In today’s workplace environment, where nap pods and massage rooms are cropping up as a means to attract the next generation of employees, creating an appealing workplace doesn’t have to be so elaborate. Simply making it clear to your Millennial workforce that lunches are not only acceptable but encouraged and expected could be just as appealing a benefit.

As for Millennial willingness to take a 10% pay cut to take a lunch? That’s not the way to go. As mentioned, lunchless employees are less productive, less content, and less willing to put up with frustrating yet typical workplace challenges. So, trying to save a buck by taking advantage of this Millennial mindset is likely to cost you more in the long run.

Shaming Millennials to skip lunch ultimately reflects back on the manager allowing this behavior to happen. My advice? Embrace the lunch break mindset and watch your employee morale, employee retention, and employee productivity improve as a result.

Would you like to me to speak to your company or event on how to inspire greater Millennial performance at work–and without lunch shaming?

Please send me an email, and my friendly team will provide information about my custom presentations, our research services, and my keynote availability.

I love working with leaders to help understand the workplace expectations that differ among generations and how to lead across them!

Please check out my latest posts on Instagram (@Jason_Dorsey) as I share generational insights I uncover around the world. I look forward to connecting with you.

Media Millennials Workforce


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