UK workers’ eating habits are suffering due to stress, according to research from the Aviva Health of the Workplace report. Although employees and bosses recognise the value of taking a lunch break for wellbeing, longer hours and workplace pressures are stopping staff from taking the breaks they need.
Significant barriers to taking a daily break remain, particularly when workers are under pressure. Nearly a third (30%) of employees say they are unlikely to take a lunch break, only a marginal improvement on the 37% who gave the same response in 2009. However, on a more encouraging note, employees in the North Eest are least likely to skip a lunch break with 33% saying they never do
A quarter (25%) will only take a lunch break if they feel their workload allows it, while 13% of employees skip meals in the workplace altogether. For some employees, stress results in other poor dietary habits, with 19% claiming they overeat at work.
Aviva also found employers recognise the importance of lunch breaks and eating well. Nearly half (43%) of workers are encouraged to take a lunch break as employers recognise the value of a good work/life balance.
Although it seems that, for many, food options in the workplace are limited. Of those employers who offer food in the workplace (45%), over a third (38%) mainly offer unhealthy options. As a result, employees try to keep themselves healthy with over a third (35%) stating they try to eat healthy food and 30% bringing in their own healthy lunches.
Health and eating well suffer when workloads are high. As a result of longer working hours, nearly 15% of employees believe their health is affected because they are eating unhealthily at work.
Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development, Aviva UK Health says: “It’s well documented that eating more healthily can improve general wellbeing and life expectancy, so there are countless benefits to adopting this approach in the workplace. It’s also important for people to take a break from their desks where possible as this can help improve both morale and efficiency for employees.
“Employers can help by offering healthy food options to support and encourage their staff to eat well, and by removing those barriers that still exist to taking a proper lunch break. Employees too need to break the habit of skipping lunch or eating at their desks. A cultural shift in the workplace towards proper lunch breaks will improve overall employee wellbeing as well as productivity.”