We’re all guilty of occasionally scoffing a sarnie or salad al desko when we’re snowed under with work. Though, hygiene concerns aside, making a regular habit of this can seriously eat into our productivity levels and morale, not to mention affect our health.

Lunchtime is – or should be – an opportunity to give our eyes and brains a break from work, and to refuel and re-energise before tackling our afternoon schedules. Not giving yourself some deserved time-out can be counterintuitive, as you’re unlikely to be as switched-on during the latter part of the working day.

Despite all this, a new report from ukactive and Sodexo reveals lunch breaks are getting shorter and shorter. The average break now sits at just 22 minutes, a third shorter than six years ago.

The report, cited by the Telegraph, polled more than 800 workers to find that almost one in five never leave their desks at lunch. This is despite warnings that being sedentary for eight hours a day kills just as many people as smoking, on a global scale.

Most of the respondents expressed that they wanted to be more active in the office, but said their workloads get in the way.

Only one fifth of respondents said they cycled or walked into work, while three quarters admitted to not doing any physical activity during their lunch break.

Talking about initiatives that could help to improve employee physical health, 77% would like their company to introduce corporate gym memberships. The same figure said that on-site showers and compulsory lunch breaks would encourage them to move more.

In total, the average Brit loses 18 days a year through consistently not taking their lunch break.

Along with excessive workloads, employees cited a lack of nearby dining options and unexpected tasks as reasons for skipping lunch.

Steven Ward, ukactive chief executive, commented: “These figures are a shocking indictment of modern workplace cultures, where employees increasingly find themselves tied to their desks and screens all day.

“Our research shows staff believe in the benefits of being more physically active but don’t feel they have time – employers should heed these warnings if they want to encourage their teams to be more productive.”

Studies have found that sitting down for more than eight hours each day could boost risk of premature death by up to 60%.

Research published in The Lancet found that undertaking an hour of activity daily could offset the consequences of a day spent at a desk. Though, just one in four adults don’t even achieve an hour of exercise in a week.

Suffice to say, if employers want to keep their teams happy and productivity levels sky high, it’s vital they encourage lunch breaks – even enforce them. The experts here at Kerr can help you to design a workspace that supports and inspires employees to take time out, whether that’s through creating inviting staff rooms and canteens, or by introducing multiple breakout zones within your office. Get in touch today to find out more.

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