Can taking a full lunch break improve productivity?

A study of 7,135 totaljobs users revealed that despite it being enshrined in law, over half of UK employees never take a full lunch break.  Over two-thirds of respondents told us that the reason for this was simple: they have too much work to do.

Initially this seems like great news for employers. It shows commitment, a hard-working ethos, and suggests that companies are getting the very most from their staff during the working week.

But with 1 in 4 workers feeling pressured to skip their lunch break, we ask, is working through lunch actually counter-productive?  Could a non-stop working day result in your staff running out of steam? Or will they grow dissatisfied and look elsewhere, leaving with you with an empty seat for longer than just a lunch break?

We suggest that where possible, a regular lunch break and a chance to step away from one’s desk should be encouraged, with all parties looking set to benefit from a respite.

Working through lunch

A concerning 16% of those who regularly work through their lunch break told us that when doing so, they do not eat at all, while nearly a quarter will only manage to have a quick snack while working. The impact of this upon your team’s mental and physical well-being isn’t hard to imagine and with swathes of lunch-skippers describing themselves as stressed (22%), unhappy (20%) or unproductive (11%), the link to how this can negatively impact your organisation becomes increasingly apparent.

To support this, Kimberly Elsbach, a professor of organisational behaviour at the University of California, told the Huffington Post, that not taking breaks from routine can impact productivity, self-worth and creativity. She comments, “lunch isn’t just an opportunity to nourish your body; it’s an opportunity to nourish your mental state, your mind, and that has much more to do with taking a break from a routine surrounding.”

The impact on your team

The negative impact of encouraging employees to work through lunch is supported by the totaljobs Understanding Top Talent series, which discovered that nearly 1 in 5 candidates saw ‘work/life balance’ as the most important factor in whether or not they were satisfied in their job. It’s given so much weight that it dwarves the 4% of respondents who selected ‘regular pay increases’. It’s clear that a regular break can be imperative in not only keeping employees engaged, but in encouraging them to stay with your company for longer.

Likewise, in our recent study on the importance of company culture, we witnessed the benefits that fostering friendships and working relationships can have on your team. 40% of candidates believe that their productivity is improved by having positive relationships with colleagues, and nearly 2 in 3 told us that they even look forward to going to work because of these relationships.

With a third of UK employees saying they ‘rarely or never’ take lunch with their colleagues, there’s more that can be done to help these relationships flourish.  Consider that many of these bonds will be formed during lunch breaks, which underlines the benefit that communal areas, canteens, local amenities, work sports teams can have upon your workforce. Plus, remember to encourage your management team to support their juniors in taking a well-deserved break.

How do you encourage your team to take their full lunch break? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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