Six million workers in the UK never take a lunch break, according to a study by Metro Bank.
Among those who do manage to take a breather, a whopping 57 per cent take half an hour or less and a fifth (17 per cent) take 20 minutes or less.
Of those who, when lunchtime comes, can’t quite peel themselves away from work, more than a third (35 per cent) blame not having enough time and just over a fifth (22 per cent) describe preferring to eat lunch in the office.
According to psychologist and author of The Anxiety Journal, Corinne Sweet, ‘In our frantic 24/7 life today, it is absolutely essential for Brits’ health and mental well-being to take a break and get out into the light and fresh air, no matter what. Employers need to encourage daily ‘sanity breaks’ and a real effort has to be made to go against the culture of being tied to the desk.
‘Productivity goes up when employees take a break. This is equally important for the self-employed, who may get much-needed social contact or physical exercise, by going out of the house for a brief break at lunchtime.’
Men make a meal of it
When delving into who misses out on a well-deserved lunch break, more women (23 per cent) fail to break for lunch, compared to a mere 15 per cent of men. In fact, 41 per cent of men manage to take time out five or more times a week.
Among different industries there were some big variances, with workers in the arts and entertainment sector being the most likely to work on through lunch (33 per cent), followed by those in health (27 per cent) and education (26 per cent). On the other hand, over half of those working in manufacturing say that they take a lunch break five or more times a week (53 per cent).
The self-employed situation
What’s more, over a million self-employed Brits never take a lunch break, with a fifth (21 per cent) taking 20 minutes or less to recharge their batteries before they return to work. When comparing how lunch breaks are spent, those who are self-employed or freelance are three times as likely to feel relaxed with the tasks that they get done during this time, than those who don’t work for themselves (17 per cent vs five per cent respectively).
The self-employed also tend to use their lunch break for more physical exercise, such as taking a walk (10 per cent) compared to salaried-workers (3 per cent). Those that work for themselves however also appear to feel more pressure to be productive during their lunch break compared to their employed counterparts (13 per cent vs. 7 per cent respectively).
Iain Kirkpatrick, managing director Retail Banking at Metro Bank says, ‘Gone are the days when an hour’s break was the norm. Although taking time out is essential to a healthy work-life balance, we know that pressures and workloads can often dictate otherwise.
‘That’s why we don’t force our customers to use what little time they have away from their work to do their banking. Instead, if they want to come and see us, we’re open early in the morning to late at night, at weekends and bank holidays. Customers’ lives have changed, that’s why we’re open at their convenience, not ours.’