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The importance of your staff taking lunch breaks

Oldrids & Downtown’s Robyn Henderson looks at the age-old issue of lunch breaks and discusses what employers should be doing to promote them.
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According to a report released last year, only 30 per cent of UK workers take a proper lunch. This could be going for a walk outdoors or simply having a break away from their desks.

The National Charity Partnership survey, which involved 1,700 workers, also found that the other 70 per cent of workers will spend time at their desks. Here, they will either continue to work (24 per cent) or browse the internet (46 per cent).

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The most likely to not take a lunch break? According to the survey, it’s women – with just 15 per cent doing so outside the office compared with 35 per cent of men.

Why is this? Over one third of people cited “having too much work”, one in eight said “stress levels” and one in eight said it was down to the “workplace culture”, whilst others said they “can’t be bothered” or “prefer the internet to the outdoors”.

However, the following research carried out by dinner sets retailer Oldrids & Downtown has established that lunch breaks are important to both workers and employers.

The importance of lunch breaks for workers

The National Charity Partnership survey found that 90 per cent of workers who took a proper lunch break felt “happier and more positive” due to their decision. This could be due to these three reasons.

  1. It’s a 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
  2. It’s time to enjoy something delicious. Your lunch break gives you a brilliant opportunity to take in essential nutrients to keep you going for the rest of the day
  3. It’s time you could be using to 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

The importance of lunch breaks for employers

Did you know that almost ten million working days a year are lost due to work-related stress? Therefore, anything employers can do to encourage wellbeing at work will be beneficial to the business as a whole.

Fortunately, lunch breaks have been linked with increasing the productivity of workers, with this even more likely when short breaks are also included in a working day. 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.

What employers are expected to deliver

It is also important to underline the legal expectations of 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).

During a working day that lasts for six hours or longer, employers must supply workers with one 20-minute break too. Employers should take breaks in the middle of the day, and be allowed to spend their break away from their workstation.

How to make lunch breaks more appealing

Concerned that there isn’t enough people in your workplace taking adequate lunch breaks? Here are some tips to encourage your staff to make the most of that time.

  • 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 lunch break will be unaffected

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