How the pandemic is redefining the office lunch break

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After a protracted yr of navigating the digital office cubicle, America’s workforce is on its means again to reclaim bodily desks and long-forgotten water coolers. The anticipation to get again to our day by day routines is palpable, however the actuality is that our new “regular” is going to be something however routine. And the most evident change to our day by day lives will arguably be round meals—a renaissance of how, the place, and what we eat throughout the workday.

To get a greater image of what the new lunch will appear to be and assist us re-adjust to meal occasions exterior the residence, we first have to know the evolution of the lunch break over the final decade and hone in on how the pandemic altered our consuming habits over the previous yr.

The evolution of the lunch break

In 2012, the New York Library hosted an exhibition on the historical past and significance of lunch time in our tradition, tracing the early definition of “as a lot meals as one’s hand can maintain” to what turned referred to as the “energy lunch” in the late Nineteen Seventies. But whereas the traits of lunch had been redefined by altering business and geography alike, lunch has at all times been intently tied to the workday.

In the final decade, startup tradition has made an analogous mark on the lunch break: the rise of the communal kitchen as an office watering gap with snacks, microwaves and fridges. Past the useful function, the office kitchen as a office perk is usually seen as a trademark of progressive tradition.

Lunch—together with what, when, the place and the way we eat it—reveals rather a lot about the values and priorities of our society and the elements shaping them. This turned particularly clear at the onset of the pandemic, when the world’s workforce deserted the office and adopted distant work as the new norm.

Well being and comfort take heart stage

The realities of the pandemic ushered in several priorities for the lunch hour, chief amongst them a renewed curiosity in well being and vitamin. My firm lately launched a 2,000-person survey that discovered cooking more healthy meals, or “meal prepping,” was tried by 43% of People with combined success.

Whereas curiosity in wholesome consuming piqued in 2020, individuals additionally realized that consuming higher is simpler stated than achieved. Of the survey respondents who tried to prepare dinner more healthy at the onset of the pandemic, 14% give up the behavior after a month. Actually, 64% admit that their vitamin takes a backseat after they do business from home. This displays rather a lot about our society. Whereas all of us wished to collectively safeguard our personal well being by adopting higher consuming habits, the actuality of the pandemic was that we’re stretched extremely skinny as we tried to juggle work, college, and residential life.

It’s to no shock that along with well being and vitamin, comfort additionally turned one in every of our prime priorities. That is, a vast majority of individuals need to eat more healthy, however they don’t need to undergo the motions of inserting each single lunch inside a container every evening.

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Pandemic concerns linger

In line with the American Psychological Affiliation, 46% of adults stated they don’t really feel comfy going again to residing life like they used to earlier than the pandemic. This means that COVID-19 security protocols will change morning espresso routines, bagel Mondays and shared office snacks. Some perks might go away completely which are extra expensive and threat future germ-spreading.

With the departure from bulk snacks and family-style catered meals, sustainability efforts may even take a again seat, for now. Whereas many corporations have made nice strides on this space over the previous few years, for now, they’ll have to revert again to pre-packed particular person meals, single-use cups, plates, utensils, straws, and many others.

Kitchen and break space setups may even must be reworked and have a cap on what number of workers can convene without delay. From spacing out microwaves and seating to including sanitation stations there could also be much less of a social use for these spots.Culinary programming and operations will must be reimagined to adjust to heightened well being and security measures.

The brand new “lunch o’clock”

As a collective, we’ve to be ready for seismic overhauls of easy issues like workday supper time. The lunch break serves a lot of functions in our day by day work-life, from connecting with coworkers exterior of the office to a much-needed psychological well being break away from our pc screens.

In more moderen years, lunch and meals has additionally represented a mess of office perks and advantages meant to draw and retain expertise. Nevertheless, the acquainted lunch ecosystem won’t be sustained in the world of labor after the pandemic. Eating places designed round 5 days of lunch rush and catering corporations serving tech workers are much less related to the calls for of the newly outlined work-life stability. Simply as corporations have tailored recruiting, hiring, and retention practices to fulfill the calls for of an more and more versatile and hybrid office, so too will the conventional lunch hour evolve to mirror the realities of the workforce and our society at giant.


Mike Wystrach is the CEO and founding father of Freshly, a producer of recent, ready meals. Freshly was constructed on Wystrach’s private mission to seek out handy and wholesome meal choices for his fast-paced life. Wystrach brings practically a decade of expertise in the meals business, in addition to backgrounds in finance, actual property, and a number of startups.