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Working Through Lunch

Dear Colleagues –

A couple of weeks ago on “Hopkins Happening – Cast Your Vote” the question was asked, “How Do You Typically Spend your Lunch Break?” Almost a third of the employees who answered this question responded with: “I work through my lunch.” It is important to take a break. I am concerned that so many employees are working through their lunch periods. Eight hours is a long time to work without a break. Habits such as working through lunch, eating at the desk and skipping lunch are discouraged for a variety of reasons.

Burnout - Working through lunch breaks can leave employees feeling overwhelmed, which reduces their motivation to work. Employees who work without a break may not feel the effects for some time. However, over time, burnout can settle in and productivity can drop significantly.

Work Quality - Working through a lunch break can make the day seem longer. A lunch break spent away from the work environment gives employees time to relax and refocus their efforts in the afternoon. If an employee works through the lunch break, they may not be able to relax and their stress level could remain high.

Social Value - A lunch break away with others gives employees a chance to bond. The social value of getting away from the desk during a lunch break can help improve employee morale.

From a legal perspective, we have to abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that hours worked include all the time during which a non-exempt employee is required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace. Therefore, if you have a non-exempt employee and they are working through their meal period, we are required to pay for all hours worked.

All managers and supervisors are required to take a myLearning course under HR Essentials: Wage and Labor Compliance. If you have not taken it, the course can be found at:

If there are any questions, please contact the Office of Compensation at 443-997-5584.

Thank you,

Pamela Paulk
Sr. Vice President, Human Resources
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Johns Hopkins Health System