Lunch breaks give us a vital mental and physical breather in the middle of the working day. If we regularly work through them, we risk becoming more stressed and tired as the day progresses. Yet past research from Bupa has suggested that less than a third of people take their full lunch break each day, while almost half rarely use this time to step outside of the office.1 So what can you do as a manager or employer to encourage staff to take a fuller break? Here are a few ideas you may want to consider.
Taking the lead and heading outdoors
If colleagues see a senior manager taking a full lunch break and getting outdoors, they may be more likely to do the same themselves. Why not lead by example and eat lunch in the local park, asking colleagues if they would like to join you?
Being outdoors at lunch is also a chance to be exposed to daylight, after being away from it in the confines of the office all morning. Doing this regularly can give you a much needed dose of Vitamin D, which is a vitamin that many people in the UK lack, potentially leading to muscle and bone problems.2
Getting outdoors also means stretching your legs. Being active regularly (aiming for about 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, five days a week) is a vital part of staying healthy.3
Creating a good environment
This may not always be possible, but if you can provide lunch time activities for staff then they may be more likely to step away from their desks to take part. This could be anything from table tennis to yoga classes.
Physical activities like this can also stop people from being too sedentary and add to their overall health. Some companies that have implemented changes like this say they believe it has contributed to better productivity and staff retention.4
Activities can also give people a chance to socialise during their lunch break. Having the chance to chat to co-workers during the day can be an important way to let off steam.
Make sure workloads are balanced
Sometimes people not taking their lunch break may be symptomatic of an overwhelming workload. Check to ensure that work is spread evenly across the team, and that people have the time needed to complete tasks without rushing. Heavy workloads can make employees less productive, make it more likely they’ll make mistakes, and affect their health.5
Instil the benefits
It can be worth reminding those around you of the potential benefits of taking a break at lunch. They may see it as a chance to power through more work – but in the long run, they’re likely to lose concentration and efficiency faster if they don’t take time to rest.
1 Bupa/OnePoll survey of 2,000 full-time UK workers, August 2014.
2 NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary. Vitamin D deficiency in adults – treatment and prevention. cks.nice.org, revised November 2016
3 Start active, stay active. Department of Health. gov.uk, published July 2011
4 Lunch break benefits – wellbeing and productivity? Fit for Work. fitforwork.org, published June 2015
5 Working lunch: What does the law say about lunch breaks? Acas. www.acas.org.uk, accessed June 2018 Mind. How to be mentally healthy at work. www.mind.org.uk, 2016