Where do you usually eat your lunch? Trying to slog through your workload while avoiding dripping salad cream on your keyboard? New research by CABA discovered that employees worry about being judged for taking a lunch break. It's not just hurting our health, it's actually lowering our productivity too.

The research highlighted that 23% of employees and managers regularly eat lunch at their desks because their workload is too heavy. It was an even bigger proportion - 35% - for those working in the public administration and defence sector, closely followed by 31% in the financial and business industries.

When looking at gender, the research revealed that women are 5% more likely than men to dine 'al desko'. However, men were twice as likely to be concerned about being judged negatively for leaving their desks for lunch. Of those aged 18 to 25 only 14% are inclined to eat at their desk, and 19% always go out for lunch. Compare that with the 26% employees aged 45-54 who are the most likely to eat lunch at their desk. At 13%, it's the older staff aged over 55, who are most conscious that eating at their desk is not good for their health.

Kelly Feehan who is the Services Director at CABA, commented:

"Sometimes, when we are under pressure to fulfil a task and meet a deadline, eating lunch at your desk seems like a productive way to kill two birds with one stone. In reality however, powering through can be counterproductive. Taking a break from your desk and particularly a computer screen is essential to wellbeing. Just half an hour allows your brain to process the information you have handled that morning, and enables you to switch off before going back to work that afternoon. Leaving the office for a lunch break is a great way to recharge and the exercise releases feel-good endorphins, enabling us to be more productive afterwards and reducing the chance of stress and burnout.

"It is concerning that 19% of mid-level staff are most likely to eat at their desk because of peer pressure. Managers and employers have a joint responsibility to ensure regular breaks are taken throughout the day. However, employees can often feel embarrassed to leave their desks, as they do not want to appear to be slacking in front of their peers and senior management. It's essential that Managers set a precedent for their employees, creating a workplace culture where staff feel comfortable to leave their desk for lunch."

A recent clinical study backs up the findings. Participants were asked to go for a 30-minute midday walk three times a week over a span of 10 weeks. Each participant used a smartphone app to record their mood level, workload, tiredness, and motivation before and immediately after the walks.

The lunchtime strolls lowered employees' stress levels and made them feel more enthusiastic about their work. A follow-up study showed these breaks also made participants feel more confident about their work performance. 

How CABA can help

CABA supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. For advice, information and support please: