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Six million British workers are missing out on a proper lunch break

Authored by Phil Meekin

Phil Meekin

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Approximate read time: 4 minutes

A new study from Metro Bank has found that six million workers in the UK never take a proper lunch break with over a million of those who are self-employed in Britain not managing to take time away from their work for lunch.

Although there are many reasons why workers are not getting a proper lunch break, some experts blame stressful office atmospheres and uncertain job roles which stop people taking a break. Of those surveyed however, 35% blame not having enough time for their lunch and 22% said that they prefer to eat their lunch in the office.

Those who do manage to get a lunch break aren’t taking much time away from their work, desk or the office as 57% take a half an hour lunch break or less whilst 17% only take twenty minutes or less. Women are much more likely to miss out on their lunch break than men as 23% of women don’t take a lunch break compared to just 15% of men.

In terms of different sectors and their likelihood to get a good lunch break, arts and entertainment are the most likely to work through their lunch at 33% followed by health at 27% and education at 26%; 53% of those in the manufacturing industry manage to take a lunch break at least five times a week.

For the self-employed, 21% of those surveyed only manage 20 minutes or less for their lunch break but those who do manage to step away from their desk are 7% more likely to use the time for physical exercise than those who work for someone.

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Managing director of Retail Banking at Metro Bank, Iain Kirkpatrick, commented on these findings; “Gone are the days when an hour’s break was the norm. Although taking time out is essential to a healthy work-life balance, we know that pressures and workloads can often dictate otherwise.”

However Corinne Sweet, author of The Anxiety Journal, spoke to smallbusiness.co.uk regarding these findings to emphasise the importance of taking time out at lunch; “In our frantic 24/7 life today, it is absolutely essential for Brits’ health and mental well-being to take a break and get out into the light and fresh air, no matter what. Employers need to encourage daily ‘sanity breaks’ and a real effort has to be made to go against the culture of being tied to the desk.”

“Productivity goes up when employees take a break. This is equally important for the self-employed, who may get much-needed social contact or physical exercise, by going out of the house for a brief break at lunchtime.”

To make sure you get your lunch break from now on, here is what you can do to give yourself that much needed rest to recharge for the remainder of your working day:

  • Schedule your lunch – Treat lunch like a meeting and schedule it in your diary, this way you make sure you’ll take lunch at a regular time and with nothing else scheduled in its place, you have half an hour to an hour all to yourself.
  • Prioritise your day – Plan to have your morning tasks finished for 10-15 minutes before lunch so tasks don’t overrun into your scheduled lunch time. So unless something extremely important crops up, there should be no reason for you to miss your lunch break.
  • Step away from your desk and chat – Make connections with your colleagues, especially ones you may not have spoken to yet. It is important to make relationships with those you work with as it can make your job easier and more enjoyable day-to-day.
  • Focus on relaxation – Use your lunch break for a little rest and relaxation time as this can keep you motivated to stick to a defined lunch time. Go for walk, eat a healthy meal, put down your phone, use a mindfulness app or if you have time, go for an exercise class, all of which can provide time and space to focus on yourself and forget about work.
  • Be productive – If you’d rather get something done in your lunch hour, turn to your personal to-do list. You could go shopping, run errands, return that top you don’t really like, phone your parents/friends, research holiday destinations etc. and for those that always need to be productive, this is a great time to utilise.

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