As hybrid work arrangements whittle down the buffer between personal and professional life, the well-being of knowledge workers — especially Gen Zers — may be at stake.
A recent study by workplace meal vendor ezCater suggested that about 10% of employees never take a lunch break, with 70% of employees taking a working lunch at least once a week.
Further, the age breakdown suggested that younger workers are feeling that work-life enmeshment more acutely: 48% of baby boomers surveyed said they never eat at their desk, whereas 26% of millennials surveyed and only 10% of Gen Z could say the same.
Gen Zers and millennials said too many meetings on the books, including during lunch hour, were to blame. Additionally, 21% of younger respondents told ezCater they don’t have enough time to both complete deliverables and break for lunch.
While lunch habits may seem like innocuous phenomena to study, these findings echo other reports of employee well-being in decline. As one HR exec told HR Dive, the pandemic has normalized work-life imbalance. For many, the lack of commute or symbolic “punching out” has only encouraged this work-life boundary erosion — which has taken a toll on people’s mental health.
In July 2022, Asana published a special “Anatomy of Work” report that investigates the link between burnout and imposter syndrome. Naturally, at the inception of their careers, many professionals struggle with imposter syndrome. But Asana researchers found distinct overlap between the two, with data suggesting that half of knowledge workers experience these conditions simultaneously and Gen Z does so at higher rates (70%).
Consider, then, that 1 in 4 Gen Zers told ezCater they avoid lunch in an attempt to finish their day as soon as possible. One in 4 Gen Zers also expressed concern that their bosses “won’t look favorably on them” if they do take time for lunch.
Ironically, this and other forms of work-life boundary erosion can contribute to workers not bringing their best selves to work. Asana’s report found that those experiencing burnout over the past year are more likely to miscommunicate, make more mistakes, be less engaged and generally have lower morale.
Noting that half of workers across the board don’t feel comfortable talking to their boss about burnout, Asana researchers encouraged managers to be more frank discussing the subject of well-being. “Beyond education, leaders need to highlight that experiencing burnout or imposter syndrome aren’t signs of weakness or laziness, but important issues to address,” Asana researchers said. “Even better would be if an organization has a set plan for addressing them.”