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July 10, 2017

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Are lunch-breaks important for staff health?

It has previously been reported that only 30% of UK employees take lunch away from their desk, with a quarter of desk-diners working and half browsing the internet – but is this a healthy practice?

By dining at their desks, employers will  believe they are clawing back a precious hour of the working day — but is this really the case and is it doing more harm than good? Research from retailer of dinner sets Oldrids & Downton claims it is having a negative effect.

The impact of desk-dining

Health is a priority for both employees and employers alike — naturally, staff members will like to stay in good health, while it’s in an employer’s best interest to minimise sick days by promoting the welfare of employees.

Lunch gives employees the chance to get away from their desk, stretch their legs and escape the office environment. Sitting for long periods has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer. It can also cause back problems.

Likewise, the inability to get away from desks prevents staff members from escaping the pressures of work, if only for an hour.

Behind musculoskeletal problems, work-related stress is the second most common cause of ill health in employees, accounting for 37% of all health issues at work and 45% of all lost working days.

Taking a lunchbreak, regardless of its length, can help to boost employee productivity — ending the myth that working through lunch helps employees do more. 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.

Clearly, employers should be leading by example and encouraging their staff to take the lunch breaks they are entitled too.

Expectations from employers

Employers are legally required to provide workers over the age of 18 with:

  • Rest breaks (such as lunch breaks)
  • Daily rest (11 hours between working days)
  • Weekly breaks of either 24 hours uninterrupted per week, or 48 hours each fortnight.

A 20-minute rest break must be given to employees working for six hours or longer.

Employers should take breaks in the middle of the day, and be allowed to spend their break away from their workstation.

The importance of lunchbreaks for workers

Respondents to the survey found that on the whole, taking a proper lunchbreak made them feel happier and more positive. Taking a lunchbreak gives workers time to:

  • 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.
  • Eat a nutritious lunch. Your lunchbreak gives you a brilliant opportunity to take in essential nutrients to keep you going for the rest of the day.
  • 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 enjoy some fresh air.

Encouraging employees to take their lunch-breaks

So how do you encourage staff members to take their lunchbreak, minimising stress and boosting morale?

Try the following:

  • 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.

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Jon Merrick
Jon Merrick
6 years ago

•Daily rest (11 hours between working days)
•Weekly breaks of either 24 hours uninterrupted per week, or 48 hours each fortnight.

Where does this come from? Working hours directive?

Sheila Billings
Sheila Billings
6 years ago

Our staff room is small and not very nice. The lids have come off the rubbish bins and have never been replaced. The rest of the building was redecorated but the staff room and staff toilets were not. Therefore they remain shabby and the staff room is uninviting