Employers urged to encourage lunch breaks for staff

Eating lunch in an office Half of those who did manage a break ate at their desk

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Employers have been urged to encourage staff to take decent breaks after a study suggested many people are working through their lunch hour every day.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy said inactivity resulted in ill-health and therefore more time off sick.

The study of about 2,000 people revealed that one in five employees worked through their lunch.

Half of those who did manage to take a break ate at their desk, one in five went outside and 3% went to the gym.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy called on employers to encourage staff to be more physically active during the working day to reduce their risk of developing health problems.

These range from back and neck pain to more serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Only a third of workers said their employer provided any kind of exercise opportunities, such as subsidised gym membership, lunchtime running club or an after-work fitness class.

'Devastating consequences'

Karen Middleton, chief executive of the society, said: "Full-time workers spend a significant bulk of their week at work or travelling to and from it.

"Finding ways to build in time to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, five times a week, can be a challenge.

"Free facilities like outdoor gyms, or simply going for a brisk walk at lunchtime, can help people to be more active during the day.

"The consequences of not doing so can be devastating with many people suffering ill-health and prolonged spells off work."

She added: "Aside from the human cost the price of inactivity for employers can be vast with higher sickness absence costs and lower productivity.

"It is in everybody's interests to find ways to tackle the enormous problem of inactivity in the UK and we would encourage people to take responsibility for their own health."

The survey was conducted for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and health insurer Aviva, for the society's annual Workout at Work Day on Friday.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I recently started jogging in my lunch hour to break the cycle of repetitive routine and interrupted desk lunches. My bosses were dumbfounded at what they saw as a ridiculous way to spend half an hour – they looked at me as though I was an alien. They then strolled off to the pub.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Faced with the stark choice of having to work through my 30 minute lunch break or having to leave work 30 minutes late in the evening due to my workload - the working through my lunch-break wins every time.

    Unfortunately this is the reality of working in a department now with 50% of the staff that it had 3 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I have been working for medium-large sized companies for about 10 years and the current company is the first place where 99% of employees take their full 1 hour lunch break away from their desks, whether in staff rooms or out to the gym etc. This also included senior management and makes a refreshing change from eating at your desk while working! And shows it can be done even in a fast paced world

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Arriving on time, taking a lunchbreak and leaving on time - these are basic employee rights. Any pressure put on staff to undermine these is unhealthy and in no-ones long term interest. H&S seems pretty good at keeping staff physically safe but there's little knowledge in the work place about mental health and the differences on staff between pressure and stress. Lets have happy, healthy work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Meetings are booked back to back, across lunch, across breakfast, across tea time even. I know the law says I can have a break but the diary says I can't.


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