UK workers demand a proper lunch break


• A third of workers eat lunch at their desk or on the go

• Younger employees are more likely to claim they never have time to leave the office during lunch

• Nearly a fifth of employers don’t offer any health and wellbeing support

Busy workers are calling on bosses to bring back the golden hour to help improve their health and wellbeing, according to the latest Everyday Health Tracker from healthcare provider Simplyhealth.

The report, produced in association with YouGov, reveals just under 4 million workers never take a full lunch break and 12 million usually tuck into lunch at their desk or while on the go. Younger workers aged 18-24 years are significantly more likely to claim they never have time to leave the office during their lunch break (14%), compared to just 5% of over 45s.

Almost a third (31%) of UK workforce believes eating lunch at their desk or on the go is detrimental to their health.

One in ten employees say they usually go for a walk on their lunch break (14%), 6% use the time to do life admin, just 4% take time out to exercise and 2% can be found taking a nap.

When asked what steps employers could take to help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle at work , the UK public ranked the following as their top five:

1. Encourage all staff to take a proper lunch break (42%)

2. Offer free fruit and/or free healthier food options (38%)

3. Provide facilities for staff to bring in their own healthy lunch (35%)

4. Offer flexible working hours (34%)

5. Offer gym membership/exercise class as employee benefits (33%)

Women are significantly more interested in their employer offering healthy eating options than men, such as getting rid of vending machines (27% of women compared to 18% of men), providing free fruit (43% versus 34%) and providing a staff canteen with healthy food options (36% of women, compared to 28% of men).

Interest in offering gym membership is higher among younger adults, with only one in four aged 55+ wanting their employer to offer this benefit.

The Tracker data shows that while some employers are taking steps to support their employees’ health and wellbeing, nearly a fifth (18%) of workers say their employer doesn’t offer any kind of support and they would like them to do more.

Romana Abdin, Chief Executive, Simplyhealth
While it’s concerning that people feel not taking a lunch break has a detrimental impact their health, it is encouraging that they want to do something about it. Employees want their employers to establish a culture where taking a proper lunch break is the norm but they need to take responsibility too. 

As businesses, we need to encourage and empower employees to take responsibility for making the right choices for them. By creating a culture where employees feel they have the freedom to decide to take time to refresh, re-energise and refocus can be done by offering benefits such as reduced gym membership, having fridges and seating where employees can eat lunch away from their desks as well as offering flexible working patterns that allow employees to pop home and walk the dog, for example. The decision on how best to spend time at lunch can be decided by the individual themselves. Creating a supportive environment that encourages but doesn’t dictate will create a workforce that is happier, healthier and ultimately more productive.
Romana Abdin, Chief Executive, Simplyhealth

Click here to view an infographic highlighting the impact of working life on everyday health.


For the Simplyhealth/YouGov Everyday Health Tracker, YouGov commissioned a survey among its online panel between 11 – 29 February 2016, drawing on a nationally representative sample of 2,222 UK adults aged 18+.