New research reveals only 6 per cent of office workers in the UK take a full lunch break daily, meaning they could be missing out on 18 days of free time per year. Almost three quarters of respondents believe taking a full break improves overall wellbeing (69 per cent), but despite this, over half (56 per cent) take less than 30 minutes per day on average and almost a quarter (22 per cent) never take their lunch break at all.
The research was conducted by One Poll and was commissioned by dining and shopping destination Seymour Place on The Portman Estate in Marylebone for the launch of ‘First Thursdays’ that aims to encourage workers to reclaim their lunch. According to the survey results, excessive workload (46 per cent), unexpected tasks (29 per cent) and not enough variety of nearby dining options (20 per cent) have been identified as the main obstacles preventing employees from having their lunch away from their desk. Despite this, over a third of those polled reported feeling more energised (39 per cent), more productive (36 per cent) and less stressed (36 per cent) after taking a break.
Although almost half of Britons (46 per cent) continue working during their lunch break, work isn’t the only thing keeping them at their screens, with half of those polled eating lunch at their desk to read the news (46 per cent) and over a third spend their lunch on social media (35 per cent). However, over half of the respondents polled would prefer to go for a walk on their lunch break (55 per cent), over a third would prefer to meet friends for lunch away from work (37 per cent), and a fifth would choose to eat in a local restaurant (20 per cent) and try something new, such as visiting a museum, joining a food tour or taking a lunch-time talk (20 per cent).
Sir Cary Cooper Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the ALLIANCE Manchester Business School says: “These findings are worrying on various counts. First, individuals need a physical break away from their desks, preferably leaving their desk and building, and taking a walk as a way of becoming more physically active. Second, it is important for office workers to link up with their colleagues over lunch, to meet their social needs, which also has benefits of more effective team building, and in the longer run enhanced productivity. Employers ought to encourage their staff to take a lunch break away from their desk, which in the long run is likely to lead to less sickness absence, greater team cohesion and better performance”.
Philip Norris, Head of Retail at The Portman Estate, comments:
‘We are very pleased to launch Seymour Place First Thursdays, which aims to encourage people away from their desks to make the most of their lunch break. The benefits of taking a break and escaping the office are becoming increasingly acknowledged, so we want to make it easier for everyone to utilise these breaks as effectively as possible.’