Diet & Nutrition

Put down that sandwich and move away from your desk: why we need to start taking lunch breaks again

Southern Cross Health Society has launched an initiative 'Lunch Well' which encourages all Kiwis to take their lunch breaks every day. It starts today!

By Karyn Henger
As the concept of work-life balance has become more elusive, so has the idea of stepping away from your desk to eat your lunch.
Gone are the days of long lunches, or using your lunch break to escape the office to meet friends or catch up on errands. Now we're much more likely to heat something up in the office microwave and return to our desks to eat while we continue working. Errands are done online with the advent of internet banking and internet everything; and we're staying in touch with friends more and more through social media.
Last year health insurer Southern Cross completed a national survey, Impacts of modern life on wellbeing, conducted with Clarity Insight. It showed that 35 per cent of Kiwis didn't take a lunch break at all, and this 35 per cent also reported lower levels of personal wellness and rated themselves lower for sleep quality, eating habits and work-life balance.
Alarmed at the national trend, Southern Cross tested its own staff and found that 49 per cent sat for more than seven hours a day, with only 42 per cent taking a full lunch break every day.
Chris Watney, Chief Marketing Officer, says the business was surprised by the survey results given the Health Society's strong focus on health and wellbeing.
"We place a lot of emphasis on building a positive culture around wellbeing and life balance, yet these results show we still have work to do."
In response Southern Cross Health Society has launched a new lunch break initiative 'Lunch Well' which encourages all Kiwis to take their rightful 120-240 hours of lunch breaks each year.
As part of this initiative, Southern Cross is running a national Lunch Well day which kicks off today, on 28 March,, to help Kiwis to re-ignite the lunch break, and kick-start a healthy new habit.
Not only does taking breaks help your mental clarity, it provides a physical break too. We are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and sitting down at a desk for eight hours each day is not good for our overall wellbeing.
Southern Cross Health Society's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Stephen Child, says that by getting your body moving and your heart rate up has fantastic health benefits. Additionally, people who don't regularly take a break are four times more likely to eat unhealthily.
With bosses leading the way, Southern Cross is now encouraging fewer lunchtime meetings and discouraging eating at desks. The health insurer urges employers to make sure they provide spaces conducive to employees being able to relax and eat lunch. It also suggests bosses encourage a culture of walking groups and walking meetings, and making sure meetings are scheduled outside lunchtime hours.
Leading from the top is important too: If a team leader doesn't take a lunch break, then their team is less likely to.
If you're not even sure what you would do on a lunch break, the ideas below might help:

How to make the most of your lunch break