SME bosses across the UK are setting a bad example to their staff at lunchtime, according to new research from Paymentsense. Employees say nearly half (47 per cent) of their bosses either never leave the office for lunch, or only do so sometimes, and half (49 per cent) rarely take more than 30 minutes. Worryingly, eight per cent of SME bosses never take a break for lunch.
In terms of encouraging wellbeing and good healthy habits at work, over a third of SME workers surveyed (36 per cent) say that their boss didn’t encourage them to take a break for lunch. A further 12 per cent of staff who are encouraged to take lunchbreak said they felt that their boss would judge them if they did.
Business owners running the smallest companies are setting the worst lunchtime culture example. The study finds that, in firms with up to ten employees, 43 per cent of workers are not encouraged to take a lunchbreak by their boss. These leaders are also the worst offenders when it comes to not taking a lunchbreak themselves (15 per cent) – amongst those that do, nearly a fifth (19 per cent) don’t leave the office.
Helen Bailey, experienced business coach and founder of the Aviatrix research consultancy, says, ‘Taking a break is good for you and your business, helping you gain fresh insight on your current projects. Not taking lunch is a bad habit which can be a serious mistake – although you might think you are staying busy and productive, it can limit the time you have to step back and look at the bigger picture.
‘This is limiting for your business – taking you away from strategic, unburdened, creative thinking. We all know that giving the brain a periodic rest is good for us but, as in so many areas, we don’t do what we know is good for us and others,” continued Bailey.
Independent business coach Rachel Gilmore comments, ‘These statistics just show the tip of the iceberg. If a boss doesn’t encourage you to go to lunch it is a symbol that employees are not valued in the workplace. If employees are not valued then they don’t speak up and their ideas are not heard. They are also more likely to leave, so the SME will experience higher turnover of staff or increased absence through stress; both come at a cost to the organisation. Perhaps the real cost is an inability to realise potential, for the individuals and the company.’
Guy Moreve, head of marketing at Paymentsense says, ‘Our results suggest that many time-poor bosses view lunchbreaks as an extravagance they can’t afford. Not having enough time is often cited by those running SMEs as a major challenge, so it’s understandable lunchbreaks get overlooked.
‘We know from working with 50,000 of the UK’s SMEs just how committed business leaders are, and although hard work is clearly a significant factor in a successful enterprise, it’s crucial that regular daily breaks are encouraged to maintain productivity and wellbeing,’ adds Moreve.