Lunch is for wimps?

Over a quarter of British workers claim they're far too busy now to leave the office for lunch.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

28% of British workers fail to leave the office all day, according to a new survey by (‘the UK’s leading recruitment scoring website’, we're told). And half of those poor souls can’t even find the time to eat. HireScores founder Lisette Howlett puts this down to a combination of two factors: heavier workloads, and fears about job security. Apparently the recession (that old chestnut) means that businesses are trying to take on more work, without expanding their workforce. And because employees are too concerned about losing their job to protest about the extra workload, they’re working through their lunch hours instead.

Not unreasonably, Howlett argues that this is ‘not an effective long term strategy’, since breaks increase overall productivity - even if they feel like wasted time. So if you're still keen to play the long game, the best plan is apparently a brief walk around the block, followed by catching up on some work-related reading over a sandwich (that still sounds like a fairly short term plan, but we take her point).

This lack of breaks is not just a boon for the energy drinks industry; it’s practically keeping the economy afloat, according to HireScores, which estimates that working lunches are contributing over 45m hours of unpaid labour every week. Of course, it’s possible that some of those were spent staring blankly at computer screens while dreaming of the outdoors. And we shouldn’t forget the hours lost as you distract your colleagues with your rumbling stomach. But still, this adds up to a fairly significant amount of unpaid work.

So what should we take from these figures? It’s pretty worrying if employers are piling on work to such an extent that staff don’t have time to eat. And it can’t be a very healthy office environment if employees feel that leaving their desk will lead to a black mark against their name in the ‘Next to be fired’ ledger.

On the other hand, the survey also found that 36% of respondents reported an increased workload. Since the proportion of those still taking a break was noticeably higher than this, we can’t help wondering whether those people who are skipping lunch might be making a bit of a meal out of the situation.

In today's bulletin:

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Lunch is for wimps?

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