How to encourage people to take their lunchbreak

Workplace wellbeing is the idea that employers are responsible for their employees' physical, mental, and economic health. A clear benefit...

Workplace wellbeing is the idea that employers are responsible for their employees' physical, mental, and economic health. A clear benefit for businesses taking a serious approach to workplace wellness is that happy and engaged employees are more productive and focused than their disengaged peers.

And this can have a positive impact on company performance, including stock price.

Encouraging employees to take time away from their desks may seem like a relatively tame attempt at boosting performance. Still, a growing body of research suggests poor performance in the afternoon is likely to result from employees failing to take a lunch break.

Bupa argues that UK companies lose 'close to £50 million a day in lost productivity' when employees opt to skip lunch and subsequently become sluggish in the afternoon.  

This tracks with the results of the Wellbeing Thesis and a 2016 study by Korpela, Kinnunen, Geurts, de Bloom, and Sianoja, which found that lunch breaks increased energy levels and decreased tiredness later in the day.  

It’s important to remember, too, that a break doesn’t have to be about food. It could be exercising, going outside for fresh air or socialising with colleagues. It could mean sitting quietly, going to the gym or reading a book or magazine in peace. Exercise has also been linked to greater focus, productivity, and an increased aptitude for creative problem-solving.

What's surprising is that the biggest challenge could be encouraging employees to take a break.

In a study by Tork, 40% of those asked said they only occasionally or rarely take a break during the day. Interestingly, 22% of people also said they feel guilty or judged when they take a break. And 1 in 4 Gen Z employees said they don’t take their lunch breaks because they don’t believe it reflects well on them.  

Creating a working environment where employees feel encouraged to take a break should be a priority for employers, especially in high-stress or creative-led industries.  


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Ways to encourage people to take their lunchbreak 

Normalising lunch breaks should be the first step. The Harvard Business Review writes that managers should be seen taking their lunch because others are more likely to emulate that behaviour. One study documented by BUPA suggests that employees can feel guilty about taking their lunch breaks.  

Skipping lunch or working long hours without a break can quickly become a standard practice, even if managers don't intend it to be. A senior research scientist, Jennifer Deal, told the Work Life website that ‘there’s a performative quality to never leaving your see other people not leaving, and you don’t want to be the one going out and taking a walk.’ Managers should lead by example and take their breaks too.  

Workload may also need investigating. If employees don’t have enough time to take their lunch, they’re probably overburdened with work which is rarely sustainable and can often lead to burnout or poor staff retention.

Make space 

Employees should have an inviting and comfortable space to relax on a break. It doesn’t have to be a state-of-the-art kitchen and dining space, but it should be relaxing and comfortable. It should be well-lit, well-maintained, and with relevant amenities for drink-making and basic food prep. Creating an outdoor area can also be helpful if it’s possible to put seats or tables outside. If you’re in the UK, creating a shelter that lets people take fresh air in any weather is a good idea.

Promote Physical Exercise

Offering a means of exercising is another great way to encourage employees to take a break. Physical activity has been shown to help boost creative thinking and focus in the afternoon, and, of course, there’s a wide range of health benefits for those who exercise regularly. Workplaces might offer subsidised or free membership to local gyms or create a fitness space with a range of cardiovascular and strength-training equipment. A lack of time is one of the biggest reasons people give when they l to maintain a consistent exercise regimen. The average UK employee spends 36.4 hours at work, making it hard to schedule exercise around a full-time job and other commitments.

Energym has designed and developed the ECO:POD for offices – a self-contained unit with electricity-generating indoor cycling bikes that not only support a healthier lifestyle for employees but helps businesses with sustainability too.



Bring Food 

Some employers create lunchtime socials so employees can meet with colleagues. It’s an excellent way for people to socialise outside their departments and help build community within the company. These can be catered with cakes and pastries or cooked foods. Some companies arrange a bring-your-own-dish buffet too.  

Play Games

Corovan suggests creating incentives for taking breaks: scavenger hunts around the office, setting up small games and matches, etc., with prizes for competitors and winners. These can be arranged over lunch periods or in the early afternoon to encourage as many people as possible to join in.  

Ban Al-Desko Dining

Other offices have also experimented with banning working lunches. This means no eating food at desks and eliminating meetings during lunch hours. This can be effective, but it’s a little draconian, and it’s probably better to encourage people rather than force them. Encouraging workers to step away from their computers may be a little trickier. Managers may have to ensure they normalise lunch breaks via work communication platforms.  

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of lunch breaks, especially when there are deadlines or heavy workloads. However, rather than break focus and upset productivity, encouraging employees to take lunch breaks can make them more efficient. Something beneficial to both the employee and employer.  

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