Eating al desko: bad for your business and bad for your employees


This week is British Sandwich week and some research conducted by the organisers confirms that in the UK we are lousy at doing lunch. Nearly two thirds of us (60%) eat at our desks at least once a week, over 20% miss lunch altogether and over a quarter of us take less than the legal 20 minute break.

Regardless of whether you are stuck on an industrial estate or business park, fighting the trend for eating al-desko and skipping lunch breaks makes sense for every employee. Here’s a few reasons why every employer should champion a proper lunch break in their organisation:


1)      It’s healthy – everyone knows negative health impact of being a couch potato. “Desk potatoes” who move only from desk-to-kitchen-to-desk-to-toilet-to-desk in the course of the working day run equal risks due to poor posture, a lack of exercise and issues arising from excessive VDU use.  Lunch breaks get your people on the move and can help break bad habits.

2)      It increases productivity – exercise should be as much a part of lunch as the food itself. Getting away from your desk – and away from your work – minimises the post-lunch dip which steals energy and makes it harder to work: a benefit for every employer.

3)      It’s better for team work – some of the best, high-performing businesses – particularly start-ups and notably Google – value the lunch break because it improves relationships, collaboration and team work. Leaders who lunch with colleagues - including managers – can communicate better with their people and set the tone for the rest of the business.

4)      It’s kinder to your IT – Here’s an experiment. Take your keyboard, lift it, turn it upside down and shake it onto your desk. Nice? I didn’t think so. Eating at your desk isn’t just bad for the health of your keyboard but split soups and liquids causes untold damage and disruption to laptops and smart phones each year. And that’s before you think of the breeding ground you are creating for malevolent bugs.

5)      It’s good for your mind – If there is one thing we all need in our work it is perspective on the issues which arise from day-to-day in the workplace. A proper lunch break puts some distance between you and highs and lows of the business day, reducing stress and giving important time to reflect on what you need to achieve each day.

You can’t make your employees take lunch breaks but I do think employers should ensure there is a working environment which values this important down time in the middle of the day.

Managers can and should lead by example.  And although a limited number of employers can offer a canteen or subsidised dining, the provision of luncheon vouchers as part of the benefits or remuneration mix can help ensure employees take time out to have lunch. At the very least, a monthly lunch on the boss paid for by luncheon vouchers could break bad habits and start good ones.

What is certain, is that eating al-desko is an unhealthy choice for your employees and your business.

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