One in three likely to skip lunch breaks

Nearly a third of us skip lunch breaks when we're at work because we feel we can't take any time off. The figure (30%) is an improvement on the 37% who said they were unlikely to take a lunch break two years ago, but is still high. Another problem is that over a third of employers who offer food don't offer any healthy grub.

At the same time, 43% of employees say their bosses actually encourage lunch breaks in a bid to look after staff health.UK workers' eating habits are suffering due to stress, according to research from the forthcoming Aviva Health of the Workplace report. Although employees and bosses recognise the importance of taking a lunch break for their wellbeing, longer hours and workplace pressures are stopping many from taking the breaks they need.

A quarter 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, stress results in other bad eating habits, with 19% saying they overeat at work. To help encourage better eating habits in the workplace Aviva has produced an online guide to healthy lunches.

Employers do recognise the importance of lunch breaks and eating well - Nearly half (43%) of workers are encouraged to take a lunch break.

Although it seems that for many, food options in the workplace are somewhat 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%) saying they try to eat healthy food and 30% usually bringing in their own healthy lunches.

Health and eating well clearly 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 at 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."
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