Careers

This is the true cost of skipping your lunch break

Posted by
Lauren Geall
Published
Eating lunch at your desk could cost you more than you think.

Guilty of eating your sandwich in front of your computer? You might want to read this…

As the coronavirus outbreak forces many of us to begin working from home, it’s easier than ever to skip your lunch break.

Whether you’re struggling with digital presenteeism and want to remain online to “prove” you’re working, or decide to take lunch in front of your laptop while scrolling on social media, it’s all too easy to slip back into work mode if you don’t stray from your keyboard over your break. While it may feel good to catch up on extra work and get ahead when it comes to deadlines, there’s a catch – starting work before your break is over could be costing you. 

According to a recent survey, the average worker in Britain takes just 34 minutes for a lunch break, meaning many of us could be missing out on an extra 26 minutes of free time if you get an hour for lunch.

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And whilst 26 minutes may seem do-able every now and then, it really adds up. If you only take 34 minutes for lunch, you could be working an extra 6,032 minutes a year. In fact, if you work an eight hour work day, that means you’re working an extra 12 working days, or nearly two and a half weeks every year. For free.

And the thing is, putting that extra time in at work may not even benefit you in the long run. A 2018 study by researchers at City, University of London revealed that people who regularly worked overtime or pushed themselves hard at work tended to view their career prospects less positively and lacked a sense of job security. On top of that, the study also found that the overtime work those people were doing was actually decreasing the quality of their work, which could have a negative impact on their career in the long run. 

Working longer could also be having a negative impact on our wellbeing. Driving yourself to a point where you feel exhausted and fed up with your career, also known as career or job burnout, can lead to conditions such as insomnia, and make you more vulnerable to illness.

Girls on their lunch break
Why you should take your full lunch break: taking time to relax and focus on something else could put you at lower risk of developing career related burnout.

Defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity,” career burnout can be the direct result of not having a good enough work-life balance and working too much unpaid overtime – which is what skipping your lunch break ultimately amounts too.

So how can we all make sure we’re not putting ourselves at risk of feeling burnt out? Taking a full hour’s lunch is a good start. 

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Instead of seeing your lunch break as a chance to stuff down a sandwich and rush back to your laptop, take your time to do an activity you enjoy, whether that be catching up on a TV show or doing some gentle exercise.

Write that book, learn a language or just eat lots of great food – it’s all up to you. 

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Lauren Geall

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