A new study by Metro Bank has found that there may be over a million self-employed UK workers who never take a lunch break.
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Of the self-employed people who do break for lunch, over a fifth take 20 minutes or less. However, freelancers are three times as likely to feel relaxed about the tasks they complete during this time than those who don’t work for themselves.
Many UK workers don’t take breaks
The British bank surveyed both employed and self-employed workers, and found that around one in 10 never take a lunch break. They scaled this up to estimate figures for the population as a whole.
Amongst those who do take a break, almost 60 per cent take half an hour or less, and a fifth take a break of 20 minutes or under.
Regional differences seem to play a part, with workers in the East Midlands the most likely to skip lunch every day. In terms of industry, it’s people working in arts and entertainment who are most likely to work through lunch.
The self-employed see things differently
When it comes to attitudes towards lunch breaks, the survey picked up some differences between employed and self-employed respondents.
Self-employed workers feel more pressure to be productive during their lunch breaks than their employed counterparts, with 13 per cent saying they felt they should be doing something productive compared to seven per cent of employees.
And when it comes to the chosen activities of those who do take lunch breaks, there are differences too. Around 10 per cent of self-employed folks use their lunch break for physical exercise like a walk, while a paltry three per cent of salaried workers opt for this type of activity.
Time out can boost productivity
According to psychologist and author of The Anxiety Journal Corinne Sweet, skipping lunch can actually be bad news for productivity.
Sweet says that it’s “absolutely essential for Brits’ health and mental well-being to take a break and get out into the light and fresh air, no matter what.”
She goes on to say: “Productivity goes up when employees take a break. This is equally important for the self-employed, who may get much-needed social contact or physical exercise, by going out of the house for a brief break at lunchtime.”
Getting the balance right
A Simply Business survey that investigated the work-life balance of small business owners chimed with the Metro Bank findings.
It found that almost a third of business owners take fewer than 10 days of holiday a year, and five per cent take none at all, while almost half of self-employed workers cancel plans with friends and family at least once a week because of work.
If you’re struggling to take time out, check out our work-life balance hub for tips on productivity, taking breaks, and finding time for fun.
How often do you squeeze a lunch break into your schedule? Tell us in the comments.
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