Not earning a crust! Average Brit loses £33,000 in lifetime earnings by working through lunch

  • Over half (56%) of Brits do not take their full lunch break
  • The average UK employee’s extra lunchtime work is worth £33,264 over the course of a career!
  • Average Brit takes just 27 minutes for lunch each day
  • 68% say they have ‘too much work to do to’ and as such don’t take a lunch break
  • Over a quarter (27%) skip lunch altogether two to four times a week

WEDNESDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2017 – LONDON, UK – In the fast paced modern workplace, it can be hard to get a moment to catch your breath. However, research released today shows that Brits all over the UK are sacrificing their lunch break to spend a greater proportion of their working day chained to their workspace.

It is nothing new that the true value of a proper lunch break and the positive impact it can have on workers is lost on some employers. However, it seems that under the pressure of a never-ending workload and in the race to get ahead, more and more Brits are themselves choosing to sacrifice lunch altogether.

Research unveiled today by leading job board totaljobs has highlighted that over half of Brits (56%) do not take their full lunch break.

While the average lunch break designated to workers is 40 minutes, the average time taken each day by the average UK employee is only 27. Over the course of a career, Brits are losing £33,264 in earnings for the work they do during unpaid lunch breaks, amounting to 1.6 times the average UK annual salary.

Brits’ ‘Pack Up Lunch’

The research indicates that many workers fail to take proper lunch breaks as a result of their mind-set and the culture that has been created, as opposed to a company policy dictated by senior management.

Though 65% said they were actively encouraged to take a proper lunch break, only 33% of these workers said they did. The remaining 32% found themselves too busy to take a lunch break and often skipped it altogether.

However, the research also revealed that 1 in 5 workers were not aware of legislation around lunch breaks. This suggests that many workers don’t know their rights around taking a break, and employers have a duty to ensure workers are not only encouraged, but also informed around their lunch break.

Workload and pressures dominate the thoughts of workers across the country, with 68% saying they simply had too much work to do or last minute unexpected tasks dropped on them to justify taking a full lunch break.

Shockingly, over a quarter (27%) skip lunch altogether between two and four times a week. Though employers legally have to designate time for lunch and allocated breaks and many companies are actively encouraging workers to use it, employees still clearly feel they have not earned their break due to their volume of work.

This will naturally cause a knock on effect to the rest of their working day, with 37% of women and 26% of men stating they felt stressed when they have had to skip lunch.

There is also a clear difference in industrial perceptions of a lunch break. While over half (59%) of those in the manufacturing industry were likely to use their lunch break in full, only 31% of those in the banking used their allotted time for lunch.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of those in the catering industry always worked during their lunch break. Famed for its culture of entertaining and socialising, only 6% of employees in the media industry said that they regularly work through their lunch break.

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Smokers have long been criticised for taking breaks during working hours. One in five (21%) smokers stated that they took cigarette breaks daily, with the average smoker nipping outside three times a day to soothe their craving.

Nearly a third (32%) of employees said they had an issue with colleagues taking regular cigarette breaks, showing the issue is still a bone of contention even 10 years after the smoking ban came into force.

However, many employees view their smoking breaks as an alternative to the traditional lunch break, and as an opportunity to escape their workplace.

The research revealed one in four UK employees don’t have a staff room or canteen – meaning no provision is made to provide a space to eat away from their workstation.  With no designated or desirable place to enjoy a lunch break or to share a meal with colleagues, many smokers appear to use their regular smoking breaks as an alternative.

Alcohol is also playing an increasing role in the lunchtime habits of UK workers. The research found that the average UK worker drank 6 units of alcohol per week during their lunch breaks, which was likely to be drunk in one sitting.

Rather than adopting Continental habits, the research suggests that the drinkers in the UK workforce are keen to spend Friday lunchtimes in the pub to make up for the lunch breaks they have missed earlier in the week.

Employers everywhere will hope lunchtime drinking is limited to Friday, as 63% of UK workers admit drinking alcohol at lunchtime makes them less productive. 40% say lunchtime alcohol consumption has a negative impact on their concentration.

The research indicates that both smokers and drinkers are aware of how their break patterns may be interpreted, so will often regularly sacrifice their traditional lunchtime to offset the time they take to feed their habits.

Good habits start young

Younger workers will always learn from their more experienced colleagues, both in terms of key skills, and in company culture, etiquette and the general ways of behaving in a professional environment. The research indicates that younger workers are likely to adopt their habits when it comes to lunch too.

While 57% of 16-24 year olds use their lunch break in full, only 38% of 55-64 year olds take the time to spend an hour away from their workstation.

Almost half (43%) of 16-24 year olds never skipped lunch, while 30% of 35-44 year olds did so more than once a week. A shocking 68% of all UK workers said that they NEVER meet friends or family for lunch during the working week.

Bad habits as a result of untaken lunch breaks extend beyond food choices and lunch itself. A third (33%) stated that they rarely had lunch with colleagues. A shocking 30% claimed they never leave their workplace from arriving until leaving.

It is clear that these engrained habits are encouraging unhealthy habits. While half (50%) of workers had access to a gym close to their office, only 8% regularly take advantage of it. Only 5% of workers had visited a museum or gallery near their place of work during their lunch break.

David Clift, HR Director at totaljobs comments, ‘The research we have released today highlights the staggering amount of unpaid lunchtime work the average worker will carry out during the course of their career.

We understand workers feel under pressure and are competitive with the colleagues, but it is alarming to see how everyday the culture of working through lunch has become in this country. Taking time to move away from your workstation has many proven benefits and can allow workers to return back to work refreshed and reinvigorated for the second half of the day.

One encouragement is that this culture is largely coming from employees themselves rather than being enforced by employers. That said, we would call on employers to encourage their staff to take regular breaks away from their workstation and to reap the benefits that come from this.’

ENDS

Methodology:

The totaljobs research asked 7,135 UK workers aged 18-65 what their given lunch break time was, how they utilised it and their perceptions of how they should use their break. After analysing the responses and taking an average lunch break time from all respondents across all industries, it was found that an average of 17 minutes that respondents spent working instead of using their designated lunch break. This time was then converted into a monetary figure based on UK average salary earnings available from Gov.uk.

About totaljobs:

Totaljobs is one of UK’s leading job boards, attracting 12 million visits and 3 million applications from qualified jobseekers every month. 130,000 new candidates register with us each month who have an average of 170,000 jobs a month to choose from, posted by thousands of employers including Amazon, Sky, Virgin Media, DHL amongst many others.

We were formed in 1999 and we are part of Totaljobs Group Ltd, the largest and fastest growing UK job board company in the UK. Our head office is in London, and we also have offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow.

In turn, Totaljobs Group Ltd is a significant division of StepStone Group, one of the largest job board companies in the world and a subsidiary of Axel Springer Digital Classifieds.

Visit the totaljobs website: www.totaljobs.com