In an age defined by always-on culture, UK workers are suffering, particularly when it comes to their lunch breaks.
The average daily lunch break taken during the working week is now 22 minutes in the UK, according to new research. This is down from 33 minutes in 2012.
The survey, by not-for-profit health body UK Active and hospitality company Sodexo, unveiled one in five workers don’t even leave their desk at lunchtime. Common reasons given for this included having an excessive workload and being lumbered with unexpected tasks at short notice.
But repeatedly dining ‘al desco’ could be having a negative impact on our physical and mental health, not to mention our productivity levels.
In 2011 research from the University of Illinois found taking a break from a task can help renew your focus on it and therefore increase your productivity for the afternoon. Professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the study, said when the brain is constantly stimulated by one source (e.g. a single spreadsheet) we’ll gradually register it as “unimportant”. Therefore taking some time out for alternative stimulation can help the task shoot back up our list of priorities.
In addition, getting up and about at lunchtime can help you to feel more energised. In 2012, research from sports scientist Jack Groppel found that when employees completed small but frequent bursts of movement throughout the day – such as walking around the office or stretching – they felt less sluggish.
In fact, 37 per cent of employees reported high levels of energy in the middle of the day after taking part in a trial movement programme, an 11 per cent increase compared to when they were static.
This movement not only improve our levels of lethargy, but also our overall health. Sitting down all day has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, from back ache to increased risk of heart disease. On the flip side short bursts of exercise (such as a brisk walk on your lunch break), can reduce your risk of multiple chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and depression, according to the NHS.
Still not convinced? Just think about the fact you’re working unpaid every time you skip lunch to finish off that project. Previous research from totaljobs estimated break-shy Brits are losing a whopping £33,264 in earnings over the course of a career for the work we do during unpaid lunch breaks, amounting to 1.6 times the average UK annual salary. So what are you waiting for? Down tools and make the most of your break this lunchtime.