This Is How Many Extra Days You're Working By Not Taking A Lunch Break

Illustration: Assa Ariyoshi
Hands up how many of you office workers feel like taking a full lunch break is 'cheating'? An admission to everyone else on your floor that, "Well, yeah, I'm a bit of a slacker".
Nearly everyone, right?
New research from shows that the average worker in Britain takes just 34 minutes for their lunch. That's a waste of 26 whole minutes that belong to you. If someone offered you 26 extra minutes in bed, or in the pub, would you turn it down? Of course not. And yet that's exactly what we're doing.
Let's get down to the maths of this: in 2017, there are 252 working days. Take away 20 days of holiday and you're down to 232 days out of the year when you're probably going to be at work.
Now comes the scary bit: 232 days x 26 minutes = 6,032 minutes. This works out at just over 100 hours. Presuming you work about eight hours a day, that's about 12 extra days you're working every year by not taking your full lunch.
If we refer back to the study, it seems there are a number of factors behind this. 12% of the 2,000 workers surveyed say they feel pressured to work through their lunch hour. 32% felt that a quiet area to escape to over lunchtime would be beneficial. Because let's be honest – how many times have you dined al desko because the work common areas were a) non-existent or b) leaving a little something to be desired in terms of aesthetics and company?
Cal Lee, the founder of Workthere says it's important for offices to instil a lunch hour culture in order to increase wellness at work. Employers are, he says, "increasingly recognising the benefits of ensuring staff are content, happy, and most importantly in good health."
He continued: "Part of this is creating a productive office environment where employees feel comfortable taking a longer lunch break and engaging with colleagues."
For many (hello!), the problem lies in finding creative ways to actually fill an hour. 34 minutes kind of takes up walking slowly to the shop, getting a sandwich and having a chat in the kitchen, but what about when that's done? Filling a free hour every day off the back of your own volition takes some serious creativity.
This fascinating read from The Guardian a few years back shows how people around the world spend their lunch break. Communal lunches seem commonplace everywhere apart from the UK and the US. Are we rubbish at socialising? Possibly.
So that's one option for how to fill your lunch hour: make friends with your coworkers and tackle the problem together. Find a park to sit in, a sandwich place that's 20 minutes' walk away or even just a table to sit at to share your lunch.
If you don't like your coworkers (hey, it's a possibility) and have a shower at work, then consider a run. It's not nearly as stressful as it sounds. A nice 3-4km run with a break in a park mid-way to do some burpees and mountain climbers (or whatever floats your boat) should, when perfected, leave you 15 minutes either side to get showered and dressed and back to your desk.
If solo exercise isn't your thing, plenty of gyms offer fitness classes that last less than 30 minutes, designed specifically for your lunch break. Check out some of our favourites here.
If what you'd do in your home downtime is watch TV, then go right ahead and do that. One R29 staffer uses her lunch breaks to catch up on Love Island on her phone. Power to her.
If you've been thinking about getting into mindfulness but think you don't have time, use your lunch. Download Headspace (or your preferred app), book a meeting room and zen out for 20 minutes before you head off to get your sandwich.
The important thing is to start filling your lunch hour, whether it's reading a book, listening to a podcast, exercising, meeting a friend or talking on the phone. Figure out what you would be doing if you were at home, on your own time, and do that.
Taking a full hour might feel weird at first, like you're cutting corners, but soon enough your pioneering efforts should spread to the rest of the office. Heck, you might even be hailed a hero.
Now, go and enjoy your lunch.