Too busy and too thin to linger over lunch

May 01, 1999|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Maybe it's the booming economy. Maybe it's an obsession with weight. Whatever it is, the good old American lunch hour just isn't what it used to be.

The self-indulgent days of leisurely lunch hours are over, a new survey says, the three-martini business lunch long gone. Instead, most American workers are wolfing down lunch at their desks.

In fact, the average amount of time workers spend eating lunch on weekdays hovers at around 24 minutes, according to the recent survey of 1,002 people by the National Cheese Institute and American Dairy Association.

Overall, the study found that between 25 and 30 percent of workers are taking 15 minutes or less for lunch. About 60 percent take between 15 and 30 minutes, and only 10 percent take 30 minutes or more.

Those who eat at their desks have plenty of company.

At JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Fla., Human Resources Director Denise Kaufman agrees with the survey results.

"With my employees, I try to give them lunch. But only two out of the seven really take a lunch hour," she says. "The work is there, and they're not clock-watchers."

And at Palm Beach County school district headquarters, the situation is much the same.

Sue Walters, spokeswoman for the school board, says quickie lunches reflect a fuller workday.

"It's a time issue. The day is too short. We have faxes now, and people are used to getting immediate responses. We have more work to do and we don't have more people to do it And very often, that's when I find people in -- over lunch hour."

Kaufman says she's requested a lunch cart do rounds so workers can "grab a sandwich in the break room. Lunch is a half hour in our place."

"Sometimes it's because people do want to get out early, for day care or picking up children. But I don't really think that's what it is.

"It's that the pace at work is so fast nowadays, that people just don't have time. It's really difficult to say, `I'm going to lunch.'"

Pub Date: 5/01/99

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