I read recently about BUPA research which highlighted the number of workers in the UK who do not take a proper lunch break. By eating at their desks, the research suggests, they are risking health and happiness and reducing their productivity.

The research considered the lunchtime habits of 2,000 workers and found that nearly two thirds could not always take the statutory 20 minute break when working six hours or more. 28% claimed they didn’t normally take a break at all.

45% of workers said they did not leave their place of employment at lunchtime and one third admitted eating at their desks. Of those, some 40% said they answered phone calls and emails whilst eating.

There are many possible health risks including:

• Overeating. A working lunch may mean you don’t feel as full, resulting in snacking in the afternoon.
• Lack of mobility. Not moving from your desk can lead to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
• Increased tension. Sitting at a desk all day can lead to tension in the muscles and joint pain.
• Increased stress. Not having a proper break and still working while eating can lead to increased stress.
• Direct health risks. Bacteria can thrive on desks, phones and keyboards, especially with food particles around. Research has found that the average desk contains 400 times more germs than a toilet seat.

Not having a proper break reduces the body’s ability to recharge and energy levels drop, resulting in reduced productivity in the afternoon. Satisfaction and happiness levels also drop, leading to increased risk of ‘burn out’.

The answer for businesses is simple: schedule regular breaks for your employees whilst ensuring that phones are adequately manned. Lunch breaks away from the desk and even the workplace itself can help reduce stress and unhappiness amongst employees, cut health risks and increase productivity.

What’s not to like?