It seems the traditional hour-long lunch break has become a thing of the past, with a growing number of workers in the UK finding themselves to pressured and too busy to take a proper lunch hour. Last year, the average Briton took a lunch break of around 33 minutes, and over the past twelve months the time has dropped below the half-hour mark, with the majority of workers taking only 29 minutes for lunch.
While it’s been revealed that only 20% (one in five) of the UK workplace takes a full one-hour lunch break, a whole 60% of workers nationwide have given up on the idea altogether and resorted to eating lunch at their desks. This is a highly unhealthy choice for several reasons:
• Firstly, there’s the risk of germ exposure; our desks and keyboards have much higher levels of germs and bacteria than the tables in the average workplace kitchen or cafeteria.
• Next, workers who eat lunch at their desks, rather than joining their colleagues at a local restaurant or enjoying a break in a nearby park, are depriving themselves of much-needed exercise, fresh air, sunshine and social interaction.
• Sitting still for long periods of time is bad for the circulation and general health; working for long periods without a proper break also diminishes concentration and lowers productivity.
• On top of all this, we’re more likely to make unhealthy dietary decisions if we have a rushed lunch at our desks. Even if we avoid ordering fatty take-away meals and opt for a home-made lunch, the “mindless” eating we do while our minds are focused on work matters mean we’ll often overeat rather than noticing when we’re full.
A Bad Habit
In short, it’s increasingly difficult to stay healthy and certainly impossible to enjoy our food without allowing ourselves a proper lunch break. UK health minister Anna Soubry recently told press the habit of workers eating lunch over their keyboards is “disgusting”, and she has urged Britons to set up more structured mealtimes, both at home and in the office.
The struggling economy means that business owners – and in turn, their employees – are under additional pressure, and this has led to more and more people ignoring their minimum lunch break entitlement and working longer hours. Working for an extra hour might not sound like much at first, but if you think about it, this unused break time adds up to around 128 hours annually – which means those of us who sacrifice our lunch breaks are doing a full extra 16 days of work a year!
While it’s fine to give that little bit extra to your job every now and then, it’s a bad idea to make a habit of skipping your lunch break and eating at your desk. You’ll be far more productive if you focus on boosting your health and wellbeing at work.
Nicky Warner is a London-based blogger who has learned the importance of taking proper breaks away from her computer screen; she supplements her daily diet with healthy snacks like diet bars, but she tries to avoid eating them at her desk!