It was reported last year that less than one third of UK workers, just 30%, take proper lunch breaks such as going outdoors for a walk, or taking a break from their desks.
The survey of 1,700 workers conducted by the National Charity Partnership discovered that the remaining 70% of workers are spending their time at their desks working (24%) or browsing the internet (46%).
Who are the most likely to skip lunch breaks? According to the survey, it’s women – with just 15% taking a lunch break outside the office compared with 35% of men – and those over the age of 24.
The reasons? Over one third of people cited ‘having too much work’, one in eight said ‘stress levels’ and one in eight s it was down to the ‘workplace culture’, whilst others said they ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘prefer the internet to the outdoors’.
Find out why lunchbreaks are important for workers and employers, and how to make better lunchbreak habits at work, from this research by retailer of dinner sets Oldrids & Downton,
What is expected from employers
In terms of what is legally expected from an employer, workers who are over 18 are entitled to rest breaks (lunch breaks, for example), daily rest (11 hours between working days) and weekly breaks (either 24 hours uninterrupted break each week, or 48 hours uninterrupted work each fortnight.
When it comes to rest breaks, employers must supply workers with one 20-minute break during a working day of 6 hours or longer. Employers should take breaks in the middle of the day, and be allowed to spend their break away from their workstation.
Why lunch breaks are important for workers
90% of workers who take a proper lunch break felt ‘happier and more positive’ as a result – according to respondents to the National Charity Partnership survey. So why is that? It could be because:
You can get things done. Taking a proper lunch will allow you to catch up on life administration or run some errands, giving you more time in the evening to relax.
You can take in something tasty. Your lunch break gives you a brilliant opportunity to take in essential nutrients to keep you going for the rest of the day.
You can sneak in some exercise. People with an hour-long lunch have time on their side to sneak in a lunchtime workout during their lunch, but even with the minimum 20 mins you can take a stroll, up your step count and have some fresh air.
Why lunch breaks are important for employers
Work-related stress leads to almost 10 million lost working days a year – so anything employers can do to encourage wellbeing at work will be beneficial to the business as a whole.
Lunch breaks are also known to increase productivity of workers – especially if short breaks are included too. This is strengthened further when accompanied by a nutritious lunch, which will give workers the right nutrients and fuel for the rest of the day.
How employers can encourage lunch breaks
For the employers reading this article, there are a number of things that can be done to encourage staff to take a lunch break, enjoy their working day more and increase their productivity during working hours…
- Lead by example. If your employees see you working through lunch, they may feel like this is expected of them too.
- Create a workplace environment that encourages employees to take breaks
- Designate a space in your workplace – such as a kitchen or dining room – that employees can go to to get away from their desks
- Supply healthy snacks to encourage a culture of healthy eating to accompany a healthier attitude to taking breaks.
- Provide distractions from phones and screens. If you have room in your designated break space, include light reading materials (magazines and newspapers) and other forms of entertainment, so workers can relax free from screens in a dedicated environment.
- Encourage additional breaks. There are stressful moments in everyone’s jobs, so make it clear to employees that if they need to take an extra break for some fresh air, they can – and that their lunchbreak will be unaffected.