Think it's OK to work through lunch? Think again…

Stomach rumbling, legs twitching, mouth dry. You're trying hard to concentrate on the report that your boss handed to you half an hour ago, but your brain is wandering. What's the matter with you? Are you losing it? Why can't you knuckle down to the job in hand?

Then you happen to glance at your watch. It's past 1pm. You left the house at 7am, having grabbed a banana on the way and a latte from the friendly girl at the coffee bar. But that's all you've had to eat all day. No wonder you can't concentrate. You're starving. Your body, and brain, need sustenance.

But should you work through lunch? Show your boss how keen you are to get on? Get through that backlog?

study from 2021 showed that there was “a positive impact on employees' health, performance, and reduced stress at work if the favourable one-hour lunch break was practiced.”

The legal bit

If you work more than six hours in a day, you have the legal right to have an uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during the working day. This can be taken at lunch or as a tea break. The break doesn't have to be paid - it will depend on your contract.

So how long is a lunch break?

There's no legal length for a lunch break, so it often depends on the company. It normally ranges from between 30 minutes to an hour, and is taken when convenient for you and the rest of your colleagues.

The 5 reasons why you should take a lunch break

1. It increases your productivity

We're not machines. We have a limited amount of mental focus to use every day. Yes, you can walk around the office for two minutes or have another cup of tea, but eventually there comes a point when your productivity starts to fail. That's why having a proper break, and not working through lunch, is so vital. It means you can recharge and then go back to your desk with renewed energy to face the rest of the day. Catching up with colleagues during lunch time also forms vital bonds that can lead to improved work performance.

2. For your own wellbeing

Being stressed at work isn't a great feeling. If you work through lunch, you're going to feel even more overwhelmed. A decent break - i.e. one that's more than a quick nip to the loo - is a way of disengaging for a while. This is key to maintaining your mental health at work, boosting those energy levels, and remaining positive for the rest of the day. If you work through lunch, you won't get that same relief, and then might find yourself snapping at coworkers for no reason - or even taking it out on family members or friends when you get home.

3. To run errands

If you don't want to take the time out to eat or exercise, you can use the break to do some personal jobs, like popping to the post office or getting some food shopping. That way, these little jobs won't eat (sorry!) into your evening so much.

4. It offers a change of scenery

Dragging in deep breaths of fresh air into your lungs increases the oxygen levels to the brain, while sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D, which is good for your bones and increases serotonin, which regulates mood.

5. You won't get hangry

No one wants to face a colleague's wrath when they're angry just because they're hungry! Also, eating away from your desk reduces “mindless eating” as you're more aware of what you're actually putting in your mouth. You're likely to enjoy your food more, and realise when you're full, rather than just mindlessly consuming it while staring at your screen.

How do I say I'm taking a lunch break?

You can see everyone else in the office with their heads down, diligently beavering away. You feel you should do the same, but you need a break - something to fill that aching hole in your tummy.

Be brave. Push your chair back, stand up straight, and announce to the office, “I'm having my lunch break.”

We all need to eat. So own it. There's no shame in doing something that keeps us alive!

Can I work through lunch and leave work early?

If you've recently started a role, it wouldn't be wise to work through lunch and then up and leave at 3pm!

For those of you who are already established in a company, it's worth sounding it out with your Line Manager first before skipping off down the path before your allotted time.

The takeaway (or sandwich, whichever you fancy!)

Don't work through lunch. It's just not worth it. Now you know all the benefits of taking a lunch break, embrace them with open arms. Not only will you increase your productivity, but you can make it more of a social occasion by inviting colleagues to join you.

Mmmm, thinking about what to have for lunch is always a pleasing prospect. What might not be so appealing is thinking about how to tackle your CV. Let the professionals take that worry away from you. Check out TopCV's free CV review, and you never know… you might be taking your lunch break in a totally different office this time next year.

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