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What to do when your employees take long lunch breaks

You get back from a meeting at 1:30 p.m. and your office is ghost town. Where did everyone go? You know your staff usually breaks for lunch around noon but they can’t be gone this long – or can they?

About 15 minutes later, the whole bunch walks in, laughing and having a great ol’ time. They have doggie bags from a new restaurant in town and have that “carb overload” look on their faces. You don’t anticipate anyone will be productive for the rest of the day.

You’re thinking … Must be nice! I sure wish someone was paying me to take a long lunch. But nooooo … I’m too busy working.

First of all, if you’re feeling that resentful, maybe you need a long lunch breaks or a long vacation! But back to the issue: Do you put your foot down on the long lunches – or do you let it go? Before you take any action, there are a few things you should think about:

  • Do these employees contribute a lot of value to your business? In other words, is allowing them to have a nice long lunch the least you can do to show they are appreciated?
  • Do they take long lunch breaks every day? And if so, do their long breaks interfere with their productivity?
  • Do these breaks interfere with your business? Does their job depend on them being in the office?
  • Do you normally account for your staff’s time?

I’m hoping that, because you are so great at leading your team, they contribute to your business so much that you realize you can overlook a long lunch or two. And you must realize that everyone needs a break. It’s actually good for your business if everyone gets out of the office for a little while.

The other issue here is communication. If your staff clued you in to the fact that they were going to take a long lunch, you probably wouldn’t have minded. Ask that they leave you a note next time, just so you know they weren’t kidnapped by aliens. “Could you just leave me a note next time so I know when you’ll be back? I know you are responsible, and getting your work done. It’s just that my mind runs wild when I don’t know.”

But, if long lunches happen so often that they are interfering with your business, then set boundaries.

That’s what I would do. This guy, on the other hand, thinks an hour break is too long!

How would you handle this situation?

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