Public employees in South Korea have little appetite for team lunches

Younger public employees prefer to eat alone and are less receptive to communal lunch gatherings, while senior public employees seek solitude.
By: | March 21, 2023

Public employees in South Korea of all ages generally do not prefer communal lunch gatherings with their colleagues, according to a study by the Korean Institute of Public Administration.

The study found that both Millennials and Generation Z (MZ Generation) and older generations had negative views about eating lunch with their co-workers, with the younger generation, particularly Gen Z, less inclined in doing so than the older generation. Furthermore, senior public servants preferred to have lunch alone, as they believed their co-workers might find it burdensome to eat with them.

On the other hand, official employee get-togethers during lunchtime, known as hoesik, were favoured by both younger and older generations compared to those held at night. Based on a five-point ordinal scale allowing participants to rank their opinions, 4.17 of the MZ Generation answered “yes” when asked if they prefer lunch gatherings, while it was 3.8 for the older generation. These gatherings include dinner, alcohol, and sometimes a karaoke session, but South Koreans often view them as an extra work obligation.

READ: South Korea considers revision of flexible work plan to suit employees

Conducted from May to June 2022 with 1,021 public servants from different age groups, the study indicated that participants of all ages wanted to shift to remote work as social norms have changed in the office during the pandemic, with the MZ Generation favouring a flexible work environment.

The MZ Generation was also seen as prioritising their individual interests over their organisation and are more likely to push for changes in the workplace.