Throughout most of her career, Leslie Gates, a communications manager in the Washington State Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water, worked right through lunch.
Because of a health scare two years ago, she has since afforded herself downtime at noon. She stakes out a spot by the lunchroom window and reads, knits, or even plays a banjo with a Tuesday jam group.
“Too many professionals don’t take lunch,” Gates says.
Statistics prove her right. Sixty-nine percent of PR professionals eat lunch at their desk rather than joining that chatty klatch heading out to a nearby deli, according to the PR Daily Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey.
Ten percent eat “out with colleagues.” Yet it’s clear that the days of schmoozing over a three-martini lunch are long gone (if they ever existed): Only 1.4 percent spend their lunches “out with clients.”
Another 7 percent clicked our answer, “What’s ‘lunch’?” hinting that they don’t even have time to scarf down a sandwich with one hand while operating the computer mouse with the other.
(In our online survey of 2,787 respondents, others mentioned in the comments that they eat at home or take a walk instead of lunch.)
Across income levels
Across every income level except the lowest, more than 70 percent of PR pros lunch at their desk. Only among those earning less than $35,000 did the percentage drop to 59 percent.
Many feel pressured to stay at the computer or on the phone. “It is frowned upon for us to take an actual lunch break out of the office,” one stressed-out communicator wrote.
One PR pro who seldom eats at her desk is Kelly Fordham, an account executive at bigInk PR & Marketing. The Dallas company works primarily with restaurants, bars, and the hospitality industry, so Fordham eats in one of their clients’ restaurants four or five times a week.
This enables bigInk to spot-check and tell a client if something’s going wrong. They also gather ideas to pitch to the media and accumulate firsthand knowledge of a venue.
“It’s nice to have that constant brainstorming session,” Fordham says. “We’re constantly in and out of the doors, so it keeps us fresh and on our toes.”
No doubt. But isn’t that a little rough on the waistline? Luckily, Fordham says, another client is a cycling studio, so she and her colleagues burn off the calories there.
Some choose to exercise
Concerns about fitness shape others’ lunchtime decisions. That can take the form of yoga or a half-hour on the treadmill, or simply trying to instill a bit of balance in one’s life.
“I typically take an exercise class at lunch three times a week,” a social media strategist wrote.
Many get their exercise out in the fresh air. One communications manager wrote, “I take a walk and bring a sandwich.”
Then there are those who like hanging out with their colleagues while refueling. One communications manager eats out with pals from work. (She seems happy with them. In separate questions, she also indicated 13 things she likes about her job, but couldn’t come up with a single thing she disliked.)
“I always take time to get away from my desk when I can for lunch,” she wrote. “I sometimes bring work with me. I’m OK with that. It’s more important just to take the mental break away from the desk.”
Another communicator, who works at home, eats “at the table with my colleagues, who are my cats.”
A self-employed Canadian PR pro wrote, “I work alone at home but I step away from my desk to eat lunch and it’s usually about 45 minutes to an hour.”
Another government agency communications manager usually eats in the office, but she also lunches “with our PR contacts from other companies. I need the time out from work, but spent with like-minded people. It is a perfect mix of removing myself from work, but still keeping my mind in work mode.”
Gates, however, finds that the time with the banjo or a book restores her soul—and lowers her stress levels—for the rest of workday.
“I enjoy my lunch,” she says. “I take my full hour of lunch and work late if necessary in order to manage my health.”
Russell Working is a staff writer for Ragan.com.