Health: Are you getting the benefit from work breaks?

Workers in the East of England are risking burnout, a leading healthcare charity has warned.

In a survey of more than 1,000 workers nationwide, Eastern workers are the least likely to leave the office for a proper break during the day.

Almost a fifth eat at their desks and a similar amount eat alone.

Just 28 per cent use lunchtime as an opportunity to get away from their desks for a change of environment compared to the national average of 43 per cent, and 18 per cent admit they rarely or never take a break.

Almost a quarter are reluctant to take a proper lunch hour because they feel guilty about it and just 30 per cent view lunch as time for themselves, against a 39 per cent national average.

However, 60 per cent think their line managers do actively encourage them to take a proper break.

Just 15 per cent of Eastern region workers take the opportunity to go for a walk or other form of exercise compared to a quarter nationally, although 43 per cent say they would like to.

David Brame of Nuffield Health said: “It is important to get away from the office environment as it benefits you mentally and physically.

“Studies show that taking a proper lunch break boosts productivity by increasing energy and concentration in the afternoon and the spike in endorphins from exercise helps you better utilise food as fuel.

“Workers in the East are doing themselves a disservice by skipping out on a midday meal and risk burning out and being less efficient in the workplace.”

Workers in the south east top the league for working lunches, according to the survey. They are the most likely to opt for a working lunch with one in ten dining with colleagues or clients.

Guilt appears to eat away at lunch hours with more than one in ten failing to take a break because they feel guilty about doing so – almost six per cent believe that colleagues frown on them doing so.

More than a fifth sense that their line manager begrudges their breaks, sometimes openly. As a result, over a quarter rarely or never take a lunch break at all.

Of those that do, a good proportion continue to work hard, with more than a quarter doing some form of exercise during their lunch hour. And more than twice the number again would like to exercise during their break.

David Brame said: “Studies show that taking a proper lunch break boosts productivity by increasing energy and concentration in the afternoon and the spike in endorphins from exercise helps you better utilise food as fuel.

“While it’s promising to see workers in the South East are keen to exercise during the day they need to ensure they get a decent break from their desks to eat, too.

“Taking a proper break has benefits for both brain and body. And it is for these reasons we need to actively encourage lunch breaks for everyone.”