Should Lunch Breaks Be Mandatory?

If you’re like most of us, you probably eat lunch at your desk, wolfing down your food while working or taking a brief internet break. This is despite the fact that by this time, we all know that eating and typing isn’t good for us, either from a productivity or a general health perspective. So how can we end this trend?

One man says that the answer is to make lunch breaks mandatory — for employees. That’s right, if Frank Partnoy gets his way, you’ll be required to take a 90-minute break each day to eat your lunch far away from the siren song of your computer and your to-do list. A former Wall Street trader, Partnoy argues that mandatory lunch breaks would benefit both individuals and businesses in a few different ways:

1. It would help us think strategically. Partnoy points out that the constant cycle of work makes it hard for us to gain perspective on our decisions.

2. We would be healthier. What do you eat when you need food, fast? That’s right: fast food.

3. It would be good for business. Specifically, he cites his former career, in which he saw Wall Street types make too many trades for the good of their clients or their business, in part because they were always working.

4. We’d date better. A 90-minute lunch break would provide an alternative to the commitment of dinner dates or the booziness of drinks dates.

If we do decide, as a society, to start taking lunch, it’ll be because we’re forced to, Partnoy says, not because we choose to.

“Although a mandatory lunch could generate substantial benefits, we are unlikely to do it on our own,” he writes. “When we have the choice, many of us see the salient costs of a leisurely lunch, but not the benefits.”

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