Lunch break benefits – wellbeing and productivity?

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog

lunchbreakA BBC poll carried out in 2013 focused on the importance of office workers getting away from their desks during their lunch break. A survey was carried out with 600 office workers and found that:

  • 54% regularly work through their lunch break.
  • 53% believed the culture of not taking lunch breaks to be widespread in their workplace.
  • 20% felt under pressure from managers not to take a break.

There are many sound arguments in favour of getting away from our desks during lunch breaks, some of which were covered in the BBC report:

  • Eating whilst continuing to check emails, etc. can lead to ‘mindless eating’, which can cause people to overeat and/or eat the wrong foods and therefore gain weight.
  • There are obvious health benefits to getting away from work and out into the fresh air. Sun rays stimulate the body to produce Vitamin D and encourage the production of serotonin (a hormone that plays an important part in the regulation of mood).
  • Desks and keyboards often harbour high levels of bacteria (sometimes even more than toilet seats) and any food dropped onto computer keyboards can actually feed these bacteria.
  • Getting away from our desks and moving around helps prevent the onset of musculoskeletal disorders (from prolonged poor posture) and potentially deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be caused by long periods of sitting.

It can be tempting to view lunch breaks as a time to throw down some food before cracking on with work again but a lunch break should really be exactly that – a ‘break’. Ideally, lunch breaks would be viewed by busy workers as a change to get away from work, refresh their minds, socialise with colleagues, and sit and enjoy a meal. Only by having a proper break from our work, and good, healthy food, can we really have a hope of being productive and fresh throughout the rest of the day.

Ipswich Building Society was featured in the BBC report as an example of an organisation that has embraced the notion of actively encouraging employees to take proper lunch breaks. Employees were seen playing tennis on the Wii, going swimming or going for daily walks. The managing director spoke about the positive effects this has had:

“We’ve seen […] a significant drop in sickness absence, which is good for the business, a significant reduction in staff turnover, which again saves us a lot of money and customer satisfaction levels are up. So, to me, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

‘Wellbeing’ is more than a buzzword. It stands to reason that healthy, happy employees are more likely to be productive at work. So it’s logical that encouraging employees to eat healthily, take exercise, get out into the fresh air, and take a proper break from work will ultimately improve an organisation’s chance or remaining productive and successful. For information on work-related health issues, or for guidance on making the workplace a healthy one, take a look at the Fit for Work online resources.

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