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French lunch breaks fall to just 22 minutes

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10:51 CEST+02:00

Despite the widely-held view that French workers while away long lunch hours over three-course lunches with wine, a new survey shows that most grab lunch in just over 20 minutes.

A survey by insurance company Malakoff Médéric found the shortening of the lunch break has been dramatic. While workers twenty years ago took 1 hour and 30 minutes at lunchtime, the average has now fallen to just 22 minutes.

"The lunch break has become the flexible part of the working day," said Anne-Sophie Godon of Malakoff Médéric, reported Le Figaro. "The content of the day has become more dense, while the distance between home and work has tended to get longer. Given this, workers have no other choice than to trim their lunch break."

The way workers eat is also changing. Just one in ten now go outside to restaurants and around one in five eat in the company canteen. Almost a third of workers go home at lunchtime and 14 percent reach for a sandwich, up 2 percent over two years.

Doctors believe that rapid eating can have negative effects.

"When we eat quickly, we don't have the time to feel satisfied," Doctor Patrick Serog told Le Figaro. "When we eat in front of a computer, it's even worse: we don't pay attention to what we're eating. The result is a tendency to snack in the afternoon."

"Taking a proper break of about three-quarters of an hour is the best," said fellow doctor Odile Renard. "Without this break, stress can accumulate."

A final incentive to get out of the office and into a restaurant or canteen could come from a survey conducted by job site Monster, which found that the average office can contain 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. 

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