Regular breaks make more productive employees, study finds

by Rachel Cunningham
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BY Rachel Cunningham
Employers who invest in good breakout areas and better quality food and drink offerings can significantly increase productivity, wellbeing and colleague collaboration and reduce feelings of isolation among employees, a new study has found.
Analysing insights from 35,000 workers across 26 countries, the Compass Global Eating at Work Survey 2023, by food services company, Compass Ireland, and global market intelligence agency Mintel, shows that workers take an average of just 35 minutes a day for their main lunch break.   The research found that the length of time workers spend on their main lunch break varies considerably around the world, averaging 54 minutes in China to just over 20 minutes in Poland and 33 minutes in Ireland. Globally, Gen Z and Baby Boomers were found to take the shortest lunch breaks.

Full time employees in Ireland also found to skip one lunch break a week. One per cent of Irish workers reported that they take no breaks at all during their working week, a figure that is considerably below the global average of five per cent. Eighty-one per cent of Irish workers said taking a lunch break makes them more productive, while 88 per cent agree that regular breaks throughout a workday improves their overall productivity. While eating and drinking during a break is the top priority for every age group, especially Baby Boomers, younger Gen Z and Millennial workers wanted time for things that support their mental health, including socialising with colleagues, relaxing, hobbies and personal interests.

The research also found that employees are significantly more likely to socialise and network with colleagues during breaks, if they have food and drink facilities at work. In workplaces with a restaurant, cafeteria, canteen or coffee shop, 70 per cent of workers chose to eat lunch with colleagues, with only 23 per cent eating by themselves. When no food and drink facilities were provided, just 38 per cent spent their main break with colleagues, while nearly half chose to eat alone. “It may seem counterintuitive, but good quality breaks are a win-win for employees and employers, enhancing productivity, collaboration, and mental health,” said Deirdre O Neill, Managing Director at Compass Ireland.

“With the rise of flexible working, employees now expect to refuel when and where suits them best. They want convenient, good quality food and drink to provide an energy boost and comfortable places to relax and socialise with colleagues.” “The smart employers are creating a workplace culture where breaks are encouraged, not frowned upon,” she added.

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