How important is lunch?
When I was in the UK in June I had a discussion with friends about what they ate for their lunch (we did talk about other more exciting things, honest!) and I was amazed when they said they often didn’t have time to go out and buy, make or even eat lunch on a regular basis whilst at work. I asked a few other people and this seemed to be the norm unless they worked in very big companies that offer a canteen. Often lunch was grabbed on the fly or eaten quickly at their desk. I googled to get some more information and saw that BUPA have a campaign called Reclaim the Lunch Break, outlining the negative effect to both businesses and individuals when lunch breaks are missed.
I recalled when I worked in the UK that I often left the office to eat my lunch to avoid being pestered by colleagues about work things and some of my team even made signs to put on their cubicles to indicate that they were eating lunch and didn’t want to be disturbed (this signs were often ignored by senior members of staff). But this seems to have got worse and be considered acceptable.
I wonder what is the root cause of this. Is it the mindset instilled by advertisers and the media that we simply don’t have time to do simple things anymore? Incidentally the sandwich above took me less than five minutes to prepare from food I had delivered from my online supermarket. Is it pressure put on staff by peers and senior members of staff that work is more important than keeping healthy and taking a break and eating a proper lunch? I am not sure what the answer is but the result is pretty depressing, especially as the skipping of lunch rarely leads to an earlier leaving time from the office.
Whilst the French have a reputation of taking two hour lunches and have a struggling economy (I doubt the two are linked), the Danes also value their lunch break and still manage to have a good economy and production levels. It is normally a half hour break and it is accepted that even small companies of under 100 staff provide a hot subsidised meal in a dedicated lunch area. Smaller places provide a place to eat your food and the supermarkets sell a lot of madpakker (lunch box foods) aimed not just at children but also adults. It is not just because companies want to be nice but many value their staff members and realise that without a break and a meal at lunchtime, the productivity suffers and also the workers are not so healthy, leading to more sick days.
My husband finds that if he goes down for lunch after about 1pm there is very little left. People have taken their break, eaten a healthy meal and are back at their desks working, probably pleasantly refreshed. In his former workplace of a very well known multinational company here, they had fridges full of milk, juice and water, a delicious hot meal selection, a salad bar and a market style cart full of fruit (which was available all day), plus breakfast first thing in the morning. He paid a tiny contribution for this. Now in a much smaller company, there is a similar but more scaled down offering.
I wonder why European countries such as France and Denmark place such importance on the lunch break and the UK does not. Any ideas? And what is your experience of a lunch break?