The office lunch break is often a source of contention for many. While some firms have a strict one-hour lunch policy, for others it’s half an hour, and for the unlucky few, it may mean eating and working at the same time. But, even when workers do have the right to a lunch break, how long is optimum to benefit both organization and the individual worker?
In the UK, the average office worker devotes 29 minutes to their lunch break. The traditional hour-long lunch break is the exception rather than the norm these days, with just 1 in 5 workers having an hour for lunch. Many workers skip lunch, either because they have mounting work pressures, or even because they think it might impress the boss. So, where should an employer stand on this issue?
A lot depends on the nature of the business, and the arrangements in place within the organization. For example, smaller businesses may not have enough staff to cover lengthy lunches, so will choose to opt for shorter ones. Some staff working on flexi-time may choose to take a shorter lunch in favour for leaving the office earlier.
The One-Hour Lunch Break
However, many organizations firmly believe that an hour for lunch is good for both the employee and the business. By taking a lengthy break to eat lunch, even leave the office to go for a walk, go to the gym or do some shopping, it will leave the worker re-energized and raring to go again. Some people even argue that when you get an hour for lunch, you’re more likely to make healthy food choices because you have more time to devote to it – which can help improve energy levels and increase productivity. Since many businesses don’t pay their staff for their lunch hour, it makes sense to take the break and not feel guilty about it.
The Half-Hour Lunch Break
Other organizations argue that half an hour is perfectly adequate an amount of time to devote to lunch. Some employees may value this arrangement too, whereby they can perhaps leave the office half an hour earlier, or take two smaller breaks in the morning or afternoon. In some office environments where there are no other facilities, shops, etc nearby, there wouldn’t be enough to occupy an hour anyway.
However, the danger of shorter lunch breaks is that staff may be more inclined to eat at their desks. This will make it harder to switch off from work and work-related distractions, and may reduce productivity later in the afternoon. Workers need to take time away from the desk to recharge their batteries, but this is less likely to happen with shorter lunch breaks.
Workers may also choose less healthy food options when having shorter breaks, including fast food or instant sugar boosts, which won’t sustain energy levels throughout the rest of the afternoon.
So, how long should my lunch break be?
So, which is better – the full-hour lunch break or the half-hour one? In theory, the full hour lunch break gives the worker the best opportunity to switch off and recharge ready for the afternoon. But, in reality, with increasing workloads and pressures and different arrangements for working, most often employees are ending up taking half an hour for lunch, or even less.
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