There was once a time when working class Americans took full advantage of an actual outside the office lunch break.

Those days seem to be long gone.

Researchers say that because of a bad economy and high workplace expectations, nearly two-thirds of workers skip the niceties of going out for lunch and simply opt to eat at their desk, instead.

A survey by CareerBuilder released in 2010 found that 18 percent of workers claim to always eat at their desks, while 16 percent say they skip lunch altogether in an attempt to get ahead at work. Of the people surveyed, a third of them said that when they do take lunch they spend less than 30 minutes eating it.

Another survey released in 2011 by workplace consulting group Right Management found that 34 percent of North American workers reported that they ate at their desks, while 31 percent said they occasionally, rarely or never took lunch.

“Many of the organizations have been downsized, and as a result, folks have significantly more responsibility,” said Ron Sims, a vice president at Right Management. “They don’t want to be seen as somebody who is not fully contributing.”

Although some researchers say that not taking breaks throughout the day will ultimately lead to burnout. “There is support for this idea that taking these breaks can actually help you do better and focus better on your work and have new ideas,” said Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rothbard says that not only are there benefits to taking breaks, but what people do on their breaks matters. She says that using lunch breaks to run errands or try to get caught up on chores is never as productive as spending time relaxing or engaged in enjoyable socializing.

While there are no federal requirements for lunch breaks, many states have laws in place that require meal breaks for hourly workers. Unfortunately, these laws do not protect most salaried employees.

The good news is that many employers are now encouraging lunch breaks as a means to promote health and creativity in the workplace, because according to Sims, disengaged employees are not productive, they are just trying to get through the day.

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