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Death of the lunch hour? New Benenden research reveals we are a nation of 'workers' in our breaks

12th September 2016

Research released today by health and wellbeing provider Benenden reveals that UK workers’ lunch hours are dying out, as the majority continue to work during what was traditionally a break from the working routine, despite not being paid for it.

The survey of 2,000 UK workers revealed that 42% of employees do not take their full lunch hour, with nearly sixty (59%) admitting to taking even less than 30 minutes. The research also found that workers aren’t maximizing the little time they do take as 1 in 4 admit to eating at their desk five times a week and 40% of those surveyed blamed ‘too much work’ as the reason for them eating at their workstation. In fact, the survey revealed that only one-fifth of those in work, take their full lunch hour. The full breakdown of UK’s Lunchtime Habits is exposed here.

When taking a closer look at how respondents fared geographically, Benenden found that the biggest culprits are the South East of England and East Anglia. In the latter, 28% of employees average just 15 minutes or less for lunch, with only 31% taking a full lunch break in the South East. In contrast, the most impressive area is Scotland, with 40% of employees taking their full lunch hour.

Despite a boom in healthy living, there are only a small minority of workers (7%) who choose to exercise in their downtime. 56% of respondents stated that work gets in the way of keeping active, with more than 73% of people saying that their employer doesn’t actively encourage it.

Opting for convenience over health, time-pressed staff admit to spending an average of £5 a day on lunch, choosing to eat sandwiches (59%), bring food from home (54%), or go for much unhealthier options such as burgers and fast food (8%), sweets (19%), pasties (7%) and cakes (15%) . When it comes to more hearty lunchtime options such as pasties (11%), burgers (12%) or pies (9%) 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.”