September 22, 2016
New data suggests the further decline of the traditional UK workers’ lunch hour, as 42 percent of employees say they do not take their full lunch hour, and nearly sixty (59 percent) take less than 30 minutes. With the majority of people continuing to work during what was traditionally a break from the working routine, despite not being paid for it, the survey by healthcare advisors Benenden claims workers aren’t maximising the little time they do take, as around one in four eat at their desk five times a week with 40 percent blaming ‘too much work’. Only one fifth of those in work, take their full allotted lunch hour, and despite a boom in healthy living, there are only a small minority of workers (7 percent) who choose to exercise in their down-time. Meanwhile over half (56 percent) of respondents stated that work gets in the way of keeping active, with more than 73 percent of people saying that their employer doesn’t actively encourage it.
When taking a closer look at how respondents fared geographically, the survey of 2,000 UK workers found that the biggest culprits are the South East of England and East Anglia. In the latter, 28 percent of employees average just 15 minutes or less for lunch, with only 31 percent taking a full lunch break in the South East. In contrast, the most impressive area is Scotland, with 40 percent of employees taking their full lunch hour.
Opting for convenience over health, time-pressed staff admit to spending an average of £5 a day on lunch, choosing to eat sandwiches (59 percent), bring food from home (54 percent), or go for much unhealthier options such as burgers and fast food (8 percent), sweets (19 percent), pasties (7 percent) and cakes (15 percent) . When it comes to more hearty lunchtime options such as pasties (11 percent), burgers (12 percent) or pies (9 percent) twice as many men than women opted for this choice.
Helen Smith, Business Development Director at Benenden comments: “It’s widely recognised that workers need to ensure they take a break – whatever they are allowed – and get away from their desks. Not only from an eating lunch point of view and building up energy levels, but also to refresh the mind and have time to refocus on the afternoon ahead.
“Employers should also take their share of the blame. Workplaces vary in the amount of time given to employees for their lunch breaks and the traditional hour appears to be dying out. Employers should also ensure their workplace policies encourage a proper lunch break, whatever the length of time allowed.”