The Real Cost of Those Extra-Long Lunch Breaks

employee driving to pick up coffee

From traffic jams to waiting for the latte art on that third cup of coffee to set, a little extra time at lunch can take a big toll on a company’s bottom line. In fact, most businesses underestimate just how significant even slightly longer lunch periods are. It’s no surprise that more and more companies have begun providing food and beverage options among their employee benefits. 32% of companies offered complimentary refreshments in 2018. That’s a whopping 20% increase in businesses that provide refreshments since 2014!

We’re not talking donuts and day-old coffee. Healthy alternatives to the usual break room fare are making workplaces more productive, one fresh salad at a time.

Take a closer look at the real cost of long lunch breaks. 

Breaking Down the Coffee Break

It’s easy to assume that an extra coffee break here or there, running out to grab lunch for a meeting, or bringing back refreshments to impress a new client doesn’t add up to much when it comes to your company’s bottom line. However, a half-hour errand can easily turn into an hour or more. That’s a significant percentage of billable time lost.

Business management and strategic planning studies have found that saving even half an hour out of every day dramatically increases your company’s bottom line. According to the research, the dollar amount earned in half an hour of work compared to the potential profit loss incurred through a half-hour break makes providing food and drink options the more cost-effective alternative. This is especially important for small businesses, where every dollar counts.

Check the Math

If you’re having trouble visualizing where lunch breaks fall in the grand scheme of the things, try a simple budgeting example to project the exact cost for your company. Say an employee earns $85,000 per year at 40 hours per week. That’s $40 per hour or $20 for every half hour! Allocating $10 per day on an office coffee bar would actually save your company $10 every day if just this one employee got their midday caffeine from the breakroom rather than the coffee shop.

The cost of lunch breaks shares a positive relationship with employee salary. In other words, the more an employee earns, the more their absence, even for a short period, will be felt by your budget. Multiply this simple analogy by the size of your team, and the price of each cup of joe adds up quickly!

The Power of Collaboration

One of the often-overlooked benefits of dining in is the chance to mingle and collaborate with colleagues. Opportunities to linger around the proverbial water cooler are becoming few and far between for modern workers. From remote positions to flexible schedules, the chance to speak face-to-face (rather than Facetime to Facetime) with your team is growing scarce.

Long lunch breaks mean missing out on key dialogue and ideas that arise organically through conversation. These are the “aha!” moments for your company. In fact, many successful corporations, such as Google, have designed their office space intentionally so that colleagues bump into each other more often. While the cost of missed opportunity may not be readily quantifiable, one thing is certain: great ideas often begin in the breakroom and end in higher profits, dynamic innovation, and greater engagement for your business.

As an added bonus, social opportunities are excellent tools for team building. Employees who feel engaged and connected are happier overall. Likewise, companies that actively engage their crew often experience higher retention rates, which ultimately impacts profitability.