Why HR Managers need to support the lunch hour

3rd June 2008

Growing numbers of British workers are choosing to skip lunch which is bad news for their health and UK businesses.

A new survey by Bisodol®, the indigestion and heartburn brand, found that although the majority (95%) of British workers think that taking a lunch break boosted productivity at work, only a fifth actually take a full hour for lunch with most choosing to eat lunch hurriedly at their desks instead.

Experts believe skipping lunch like this is not only bad for health, it also harms staff morale and lowers productivity in the workplace. Bisodol wants employees and employers to recognise the importance of taking a lunch break and is launching a campaign to Bring Back Britain’s Lunch Hour.

“Skipping lunch is often seen as a positive thing in the British workplace.” said a Bisodol product manager, Jay Banerjee.

“There is an idea that if you take a full hour for lunch then you’re somehow less committed to your job than you might be if you ate a sandwich at your desk.”

“But taking a proper break, not rushing to eat your food and getting away from your desk into the fresh air can actually make people less likely to run out of energy towards the end of the day, less likely to suffer common complaints like indigestion and heartburn and also boost your ability to think properly, which can only be good for business.”

From Hot Desking to Eat Desking

Bisodol’s survey found that 78% of employees still take a lunch break, but only 21% of those take the full hour they are entitled to.

Around 68% of employees chose to eat at their desks rather than getting out of the office and 68% said they felt guilty if they took a full hour for lunch. This is despite advice from nutritionists who often emphasise the importance of taking a break from your desk and topping up energy levels with a healthy meal. This not only helps people concentrate better, it also makes them less likely to run out of steam at the end of the day.

Too Busy to Eat?

Of those who took a lunch break, 26% admitted to taking 15 minutes or less, with 43% people taking just 30 minutes. In Europe, recent trends show that many workers not only take a full lunch hour, they also enjoy going out to eat. In countries like France, Greece, Portugal and Belgium, most workers never fail to stop for a lunch break.

Healthy Eating

When we do eat lunch, most of us tend to eat well. The most popular food for lunch in the survey was sandwiches, with 43% of people choosing those over fast food, a trip to the pub or canteen or a salad. 13% said they ate soup, 16% enjoy a salad most lunchtimes, but fruit is less popular with just 3% bringing that to work.

Good Lunchtime Eating habits

Anne Sidnell, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation says the important thing about lunch is to eat something that will give a sustained release of energy throughout the rest of the day and not to eat so much that you feel sluggish.

“Drowsiness is common after eating and it doesn’t seem to matter what the meal consists of” she explains.“This is why it’s a good idea to get some exercise at lunchtime too. If it’s possible, have a walk in the fresh air. It can help you feel alert after lunch for the afternoon’s tasks.

Her top tips for healthy lunches are:

Base each meal on starchy foods - for lunch this could mean sandwiches, wraps, pasta, rice or baked potato. If you go for wholegrain bread, or wholewheat pasta, you will get the benefits of fibre.

Lunch is a good time to include a piece of fruit or salad. A fruit juice or smoothie will count towards one of your 5-a-day portions.

News Courtesy of OnRec.com