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Koreans don’t enjoy lunch with co-workers: report

Younger workers prefer lunchtime 'hoesik;' all generations want remote work amid changing office norms

By Park Jun-hee

Published : March 19, 2023 - 15:22

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A woman looks at the price tag in front of a restaurant. (Yonhap) A woman looks at the price tag in front of a restaurant. (Yonhap)

Public servants of all ages have a low preference for eating lunch with their teammates, a report showed Sunday.

According to a report by the Korea Institute of Public Administration on the values and organizational innovation of public servants per generation, both the MZ Generation -- a Korean term referring to millennials and Generation Z, or those roughly born from 1981 to 2012 -- and older generations have negative views about eating lunch with coworkers.

The finding came to light in research conducted between May and June last year based on 1,021 public servants of different age groups working in central administrative agencies.

The data also showed that the younger generation, especially Gen Z, responded more negatively to communal lunches than the older generation. Senior public servants opted to have lunch alone because many of them think that their coworkers might find it burdensome to eat with them.

Furthermore, both the younger and older generations preferred having “hoesik,” or official employee get-togethers, during lunchtime rather than 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.

A hoesik generally consists of dinner, alcohol and occasionally a trip to a karaoke bar, which Koreans typically think of as an extra work obligation.

The study also showed that participants of all ages want to shift to remote work as social norms have changed in the office during the pandemic, with the MZ Generation responding that a flexible work environment is at the top of their minds.

As a growing number of younger Koreans prefer eating alone at work, the report described the MZ Generation as those who prioritize individual interests over their organization, explaining that they are pushing for changes in the workplace. It also suggested that workplaces set up measures that effectively respect personal values at work.