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Average lunch break lasts only 22 minutes, report finds

Nearly one fifth of workers don't leave their desks during lunchtime

Olivia Petter
Sunday 21 October 2018 14:56 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Long gone are the days when employees would sidle out of the office at 12 noon for a lunchtime meeting only to trundle back three hours later, two courses and a bottle of Chardonnay down.

Today, high demands and an increasingly volatile economic landscape have rendered the concept of lunch hours obsolete in most offices, with the average Brit now taking just 22 minutes for their midday break, new research claims.

Lunchtimes have fallen by a third in the last six years, with a 2012 average of 33 minutes, according to a poll of more than 800 workers conducted by hospitality company Sodexo and nonprofit health body Ukactive,

The survey found that one in five employees didn’t leave their desks at all during lunchtime.

The research, as reported by The Daily Telegraph, also looked into how much British workers were exercising and found that one in five cycled or walked to work, with the majority travelling by train or car.

Meanwhile, at lunchtime - once viewed as the optimum time to squeeze in a workout - today’s employees are mostly sedentary, the report claims.

Three quarters of people aren’t physically active on their lunch breaks, which makes sense given the 22-minute average barely warrants enough time to grab a ham and cheese sandwich from Pret A Manger, let alone start breaking a sweat on a cross trainer.

Among reasons cited for skipping the break, most people gave work-related explanations, such as excessive workload or unprecedented task lists.

Others said there simply weren’t enough dining options nearby, leaving them to resort to desk-side meals they would've presumably brought in from home or purchased from a supermarket.

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

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

It's not just Brits who have waved goodbye to the luxury of lunch hours; lunchtime is a similarly short-lived affair across the pond, with a 2015 survey finding that just one fifth of Americans spend their lunch break away from their desks.

There’s increasing evidence to show the adverse effects of spending an entire day sat down at a desk.

While there’s no set time limit advising people how long they should or shouldn’t sit for, research has linked excessive sitting to obesity, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

If you really can’t manage prolonged periods of time away from your desk, recent guidelines published by the UK's four Chief Medical Officers recommend taking shorter breaks at regular intervals throughout the day lasting for one or two minutes.

Something really is better than nothing, at least in this instance.

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