Sunday, August 06, 2006


As Lunch Breaks Vanish, So Does White Collar Health

An online paper in Southern Illinois, of all places, decries the disappearing lunch break. I suppose in New York or Boston or Washington the lunch break is already as extinct as the dodo or the quagga, so we're long past the mourning stage. Still, it is nice to be reminded of how things once were. The corporate mandate to do more with fewer resources compels white collar workers to stay on the job longer, working continuously from nine to five, and often beyond, with no breaks at all. Many folks eat at their desks, and as quickly as possible, sometimes gobbling down a granola bar or a bag of Cheetoes or something. As the article at the link below points out, break time serves as an efficient stress reliever, and is therefore as important to your health as the quality of the food you might consume. "Extended hours and stress lend themselves to burnout and health problems, making employees less effective in the long run," says Steve Karau, a management professor at Southern Illinois University. He goes on to say that corporations may be losing money by forcing employees to skimp on lunch, causing a more dramatic attrition of energy and focus as the day wears on without the required refueling.

It may be instructive to review this brief article in the context of the links on stress and blood pressure in our previous item. Even in the context of the article prior to that on the diminishment of overtime pay for white collar workers. Corporate managers are taking the path of least resistance by pressing workers to work more hours, getting more labor out of them for less money because most of these workers are either salaried or deprived of overtime pay. This mandate is almost a rote response to some musty old rule about work-per-hour ratios that the managers learned in business school, and which is more appropriate to an assembly line at Ford Motor Co. circa 1920. These managers are just not thinking (that is, if they are capable of thought). What white collar workers produce, at their best, is really most valuable for its quality rather than its quantity. And when those workers are forced to work under duress, and with declining rewards, quality inevitably suffers. We are not machines, and what we produce is not mechanical, but the contempt and ignorance of corporate leadership utterly prevents them from seeing that.

"Lunch break not what it used to be" from The Southern Illionoisan

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