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I’m too busy to go out so I eat at my desk… Give me a break!

We all do it, time is precious and the thought of going to eat away from your desk seems impossible. Devouring a meal deal from any of the high-street convenience sandwich shops seems like a good option. As a one off we can forgive this strange behaviour as necessary, but where this becomes a regular event, we need to reprioritise our habits. Many of my clients are senior executives and have highly stressful jobs in which there is an expectation for them to be available 24/7. This includes having to work through their lunch break in meetings or to meet deadlines.

So just how important is taking a lunch break for employee mental health and wellbeing?

In an era where retention and engagement of staff are critical, businesses need to be creative in their methods to keep staff working effectively and keep them healthy. In a report by The National Charity Partnership Survey in 2016 found one third of employees reported having too much work to take breaks and 12.5% reported that workplace culture meant that they avoided breaks altogether. A productive, engaged and healthy team is the only sustainable way of achieving that high level of performance that employers desire, yet only 30% of UK workers take a proper lunch break.

Amazon, Google and other innovative companies get imaginative to enable their employees to spend time away from their desks. Time out can lower stress levels, boost concentration and productivity, reduce sickness absence and increase weight loss.

But it’s more than that.

Do you have any legal right to a break?

It’s a legal obligation to provide adequate rest breaks (20 minutes for every 6 hours worked consecutively, 24 hours in any 7 days or 48 hours in any 14 day period and 11 hours break in any 25 hour period) as well as a safe and healthy working environment. This is set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Staff retention, welfare and absence are significant challenges to any business. Most businesses do not have the same budgets as Google or Amazon but nonetheless need to consider ways to make sure that employees are engaged, motivated and have a healthy balance.

So engage your employees, encourage them to take adequate time away from their desks, lead by example and your business will reap the rewards with a motivated, healthier, focused, more productive team who are more likely to stay working for you.

If not for those reasons, do it because the law requires you to and not doing so can have serious repercussions.