71% of Us are Too Busy to Take a Lunch Break

According to a recently published report by BUPA, nearly three-quarters of workers in the UK are too busy to take their proper lunch break.  This data will come as little surprise to most of us – we’re too busy leading or contributing to global teams to take a lunch break. Putting in ridiculously long hours as we grind out more work, and operating in a dysfunctional state of continual overwhelm. The consequences of  overwork are numerous and well-documented. Yet most of us, 71 percent of us, in fact, according to the BUPA research, don’t take our full lunch break. Here are the highlights from the study of more than 2,000 full-time employees.

Study Highlights

  • A significant 42 percent of respondents respond to calls during their lunch break, and a similar percentage check their emails during their lunch hour.
  • Just under a third of respondents do not take any breaks during the working day (28 percent). An earlier study, reported in the Daily Mail, found that 60 percent of employees will simply eat their sandwiches at their desks.
  • More than half of full-time workers do not take their mandatory 20- minute lunch break when working  more than six hours (64 percent).
  • Employers do not encourage their staff to take their full lunch break (who perhaps believe that less lunch means more work is being done. An earlier study, reported in the Daily Mail, found that sacrificed break time can equate to up to 128 hours a year or an additional 16 full work days).
  • Just under a half of those surveyed do not use their lunch break as time away from their office (45 percent).
  • Less than half of the respondents say they rarely use their lunch hour to do something either relaxing or rejuvenating (46 percent).
  • Lack of rest affects staff productivity and has wider implications on business performance.
  • Managers set a poor example for staff, with  24 percent of workers reporting that their bosses do not take breaks, leading them to follow the example and do likewise.

It is Clear From the Study that Employees Value Their Lunch Hour:

  • Over half of employees report that skipping lunch affects their mood (52 percent), and 40 percent believe they will become unproductive.
  • Nearly a third of those surveyed feel unwell when they skip lunch.

What’s the Answer?

“While we appreciate everyone is very busy, employers should start 2015 as they mean to go on by recognising the importance of taking breaks, leading by example and not letting breaks fall by the wayside.” Patrick Watt, BUPA corporate director

The findings from this latest study corroborate the observations from other studies. It would appear that most of us feel that our hefty workloads, with looming deadlines and pressure from management is such that most of us cannot even take the legally required 20-minute lunch break, even though we recognise the impact of not having a break. This great conundrum can surely not be left unsolved, given the plethora of research about the adverse impact of overwork on employee well-being and productivity. So what’s the answer?

Well, one answer could be to make eating lunch at work a health and safety issue. According Dr Ron Cutler, a microbiologist at Queen Mary University of London, and as reported in the Daily Mail, the office environment is conducive to the proliferation of bacteria such as staphylococcus, the bug credited with inducing diarrhoea and vomiting and all manner of abdominal discomfort.

What’s your answer? Please write your suggestions in the comments box below...

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