How has the lunch hour changed over the last couple of years? Unfortunately, Brits are taking shorter lunch hours than ever at work, as the idea of fully switching off and taking advantage of a break seems to be becoming obsolete.

We updated our 2017 study* looking into how long UK office workers are taking for their lunch breaks and found that workers are taking even less time than they were four years ago. The average lunch break has shrunk by six minutes as employees now take just 28 minutes for their lunch hour, compared to 34 minutes in 2017. Over the period of one year, this means employees are losing out on a huge 8,320 minutes, which is the equivalent of working an extra 20 days without being paid (based on an eight-hour day with an hour lunch break).

Despite a huge focus being put on wellbeing during the recent lockdown restrictions, our findings have shown more people are working through their lunch break than before. In 2017, nearly half (48%) of the respondents said they never skip their lunch break. This year, however, the number has fallen to 41%, showing an increase in the number of people feeling the need to work through lunch regularly.

So, where is the demand for lunchtime working coming from? Almost one in ten (8%) said they feel pressure from their employer to work through their lunch hour and almost a third (32%) say they rarely leave the office at lunchtime. In the office, this may be because managers set the tone and not taking a lunch break themselves, whereas while working from home, people may feel like they need to prove that they are working to the best of their ability. As we prepare to return to the office and look ahead to post-pandemic working life, what can office providers do to encourage employees to use the lunch break for their wellbeing?

Communal areas are a good start, allowing employees to take longer lunch breaks and relax with colleagues while enjoying their food. Companies have already implemented growing trends, such as green and quiet spaces, subsidised canteens and lunchtime activities. It’s also important to highlight the benefits of forgetting about the phrase ‘I am too busy’. Taking a lunch break allows your brain to recharge and refocus, which is said to significantly improve productivity at work. Also, as stress is incredibly common in the UK, taking time away from the computer will help to contribute towards improved mental health.

Getting through your workload is important but no less important than your wellness. Allowing yourself to take an hour lunch break every day will result in less stress, better performance, and more creativity in the workplace. For more office insights, read our people and productivity section on our blog: https://www.workthere.com/en-gb/news-guides/people/

*Research was carried out with Censuswide on 2,000 full-time workers in 2017 on behalf of Workthere. The same study was then carried out again with The Leadership Factor on 2,000 full-time workers in 2021 on behalf of Workthere