Two thirds of UK employees skip their lunch break

Most UK employees simply want to eat their lunch in peace but despite this, two-thirds of us are working unpaid during our breaks.

That’s according to new research, which says that two thirds of British workers aren’t stopping for lunch because of heavy work-loads and their managers’ expectations.


Of the 1,500 office workers surveyed, many employees felt “they were expected to” work through breaks, “wanted to look busy” for managers and 38% simply said they had “too much work” to fit in to the day, says the study by office supply firm Viking.

It found that while 82% of employees said they felt their current lunch break allowance was long enough, two thirds (67%) admitted to working through their lunch at least once a week. That number is even higher (80%) for 25-34-year olds. A further 14% of all respondents said they do so every day.

Regional variations

The most overworked region in the UK is, according to the research, London, with 77% of people admitting to working through lunch once or more every week.

However, that was closely followed by Northern Ireland, with 76% saying the same. Those least likely to take a working lunch were residents of Wales with only 42% saying they take a working lunch regularly.

When asked what they would rather spend their time doing, the majority of respondents (52%) said they would simply like to be left to eat in peace. Among the other popular answers included: reading, socialising, exercising and on social media.

Further evidence

The latest findings come after previous studies claiming that spending unbroken days in offices could affect employees’ mental and physical health.

More than three in 10 workers polled, in a study by Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation, earlier this year, warned that having too much work was a barrier to getting out for a lunchtime stroll. One in eight blamed stress levels, and a similar proportion cited workplace culture.

Getting outside

Despite staying at their desk during breaks, over a third of UK workers (36 per cent) say access to outside space at lunchtime would make them more productive at work, according to a study by company Workthere with 32 per cent confirming a quiet area to escape to would make a difference to the time they spend on their lunch break.

Who’s most likely to skip lunch?

Workthere found that those working in HR came out on top at 70%, with the Finance sector not far behind at 68%. In third place was the Arts and Culture sector, which saw 62% of employees skipping lunch.

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