British workers are giving companies five days free labour by skipping lunch

British workers are only taking 31 minute lunch breaks [Photo: Getty]
British workers are only taking 31 minute lunch breaks [Photo: Getty]

British workers are taking no more than half an hour lunch breaks at work, new research has revealed.

Clock on at 9, clock off at 5, take an hour for lunch… used to be the standard working day blueprint.

Nowadays, however, workers are more likely to grab a quick sarnie al desko while trying to respond to the 64K emails choking up their inbox.

According to a survey of 2,000 by jobs site Glassdoor, seven in 10 British employees usually take less than an hour for lunch at work, with the average lunch break lasting a paltry 31 minutes.

That means that full-time workers are losing out on around 7,200 minutes – or 120 hours or five days – of their lunch break every single year.

Many workers only just manage to gobble down some food as they opt to spend their break doing things they would otherwise have to do out of the office, such as running errands and exercising.

When it comes to why employees are currently cutting their lunch breaks short, 18% of participants claimed they felt pressure to work through their lunch break, as their fellow colleagues do.

While one in four stated they sometimes have smaller breaks, so they don’t lag behind or miss a work deadline.

A further study by the wellbeing experts at CABA, also found that office workers fear judgement from their peers and senior management for taking their full lunch break.

It seems the traditional hour-long break has become a thing of the past as workers also admit they would rather substitute a longer break with a pay rise or flexible working hours.

Commenting on the findings John Lamphiere of Glassdoor said: “The lunch hour is becoming a thing of the past and fewer people have the time or the inclination to take a long lunch break anymore. Many employees grab half an hour and they use that time to work, shop, go online, play games, run errands or exercise. Eating lunch is squeezed in there somewhere.”

But cutting short or in fact skipping your lunch break entirely can have some pretty extreme consequences on our health and wellbeing, not to mention our productivity.

UK companies have to abide by certain legal requirements surrounding employee welfare. The government states that employees who work more than 6 hours a day, have the right to at least one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break.

Many companies however, often offer longer or more frequent breaks to their workers, to avoid any adverse effects on people’s physical and mental health.

The problem though, as revealed by the research, is that British workers just aren’t taking it.

“Often there is a very strong temptation to skip a lunch break to catch up with work, however this can be counter-productive; regular breaks away from the desk have many advantages both physically and mentally and can also have a positive impact on individual and team performance,” explains Dr Dimitrios Paschos, Consultant Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health.

There are some pretty compelling reasons why you should totally take a proper lunch break [Photo: Getty]
There are some pretty compelling reasons why you should totally take a proper lunch break [Photo: Getty]

With that in mind here are seven reasons you should totally stop having lunch al desko and take a proper break instead.

Boosts creativity

“A change of scenery in a lunch time break can aid creativity, focus, and boost productivity,” says Zofia Bajorek, Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies. “It may provide a chance to talk to colleagues, exchange ideas, develop conversations about a piece of work and gain new thoughts as to how to develop a piece of work and improve employee collaboration.”

Healthier food choices

Grabbing lunch at your desk means you’re more likely to reach for something unhealthy. “This can not only affect health in the long term but also impair your concentration later on in the afternoon (sleepiness/lethargy following sugary foods and heavy meals),” Hello 4 o clock slump!

Smaller waistlines

A recent study of 5,000 employees found that those who ate regularly at their desks were more likely to be obese.

“We tend to eat faster when at our desks, which means that the stomach doesn’t have enough time to send signals of fullness to the brain, causing us to overeat,” Dr Paschos explains. “We also tend to consume more calories when we eat quickly.”

Less muscular problems

According to Dr Paschos staying seated for long periods increases the chance of musculoskeletal problems like back pain. “Going for a walk at lunch time in the fresh air, away from the air conditioning can have restorative effects,” he adds.

Going out for lunch is better for our physical and mental health [Photo: Getty]
Going out for lunch is better for our physical and mental health [Photo: Getty]

Improved mood

Clinical Nutritionist Emily Blake from BioCare explains that “a sedentary, indoor lifestyle is commonplace nowadays and likely a major driver of today’s epidemic of depression and other mental health conditions.

One mechanism may be the fact that an indoor lifestyle can drive suboptimal vitamin D levels, which can then affect our mood. She suggests getting outside, even for just 10 minutes a day on your lunch break. “Just being in a green space such as a park or woodland, so-called ‘Green Therapy’, can have a significant impact on our mood and motivation.”

Better work performance

Need to up your work game? Take a proper lunch break. “Mental performance drops if we don’t take breaks; decision making becomes slower, attention levels wane and thinking can become more rigid,” explains Dr Paschos.

Improves stress levels

“The ability to take a break whilst at work is paramount to reducing stress levels,” explains David Price, CEO and wellbeing expert at Health Assured.

According to Graham Bird, Director of Where Workplace Works a reduction in social interaction is a key factor in this, as there is less time to speak with colleagues, discuss issues and let of steam and reset. “Longer breaks will allow staff members to return to work rejuvenated, and will improve levels of creativity, productivity and wellbeing,” he adds.

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