Take a break - why wellbeing in the workplace matters

A recent survey has reported that one in five employees in the UK regularly work through their lunch breaks.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

The survey, conducted by The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, questioned 2,000 full-time employees and also found that only one in five employees actually go outside during their break, and more than half of those that reported to take a break ate their lunch at their desk.

On the face of it, the results of this survey are quite easy to understand; when there is lots of work on, and staff are working at or close to capacity, it can be difficult to ensure that staff take adequate breaks. But what does it matter to employers if staff eat their lunch at their desk or take little or no exercise?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy suggest that a lack of physical activity during the working day can have a detrimental effect and results in a greater risk of staff developing health issues. From occupational health matters, such as back and neck problems resulting from prolonged periods sitting behind desks or driving, to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer; the links between inactivity and poor health are nothing new. And with ever busier lives, if no exercise is done during the day, it can be impossible to fit it in at all.

For employers, staff with poor health causes the obvious problem of employees having days off sick; some of which could perhaps be avoidable were they in better overall health.

Aside from health concerns, the ability for employees to stay focussed and apply themselves fully to the job at hand is another concern when employees are not taking adequate breaks. A study of employees, conducted on behalf of Bupa, found that employees reported an ‘afternoon dip’ in activity if they had not taken a break earlier in the day. According to the study of 1000 workers, 48% said they had a lapse of around 40 minutes in the afternoon that Bupa equated to a UK-wide productivity loss of £50 million!

Whilst you cannot make staff take their breaks, all the evidence suggests that proactively encouraging them to do so is in the business’ best interests. Offering some sort of sporting activity outside of the office can also work well for employers. Funding football matches for employees or organising corporate discounts in conjunction with a nearby gym or health club could be options to consider.