Why making your staff eat lunch could be good for your business

Businesses should make sure their staff are well-rested and leave their desks during designated lunch breaks in order to keep general stress levels down and improve productivity, an occupational health and safety experts argues.

The comments come as a new report from research firm McCrindle Research reportedly shows 28% of employees eat lunch at their work desks, with only 14% eating outdoors during designated breaks. One in six don’t eat lunch at all.

The report, which surveyed about 600 Australian workers, also found that 25% of employees are now working over 50 hours a week. It specifies a general trend towards overworking, with employees now choosing to skip breaks in order to keep up with significantly larger workloads.

But Michael Tooma, laywer with Norton Rose and occupational health and safety expert, says businesses need to watch out for employees with extreme workloads missing breaks.

He says something as simple as eating lunch away from a work desk is an important issue that needs to be addressed or larger problems could occur, which may cost the company.

“I think it’s important for all employers to emphasise health and occupational safety programs that they have, because the implications of having a healthy lifestyle become part of the workplace as well.”

“It would certainly be a concern if there is a pattern of overworked people not taking appropriate breaks, and it’s certainly becoming a trend in the way business is conducted these days because people are doing so much more.”

Tooma says depending on the size of a business, there are actually different legal obligations for providing adequate amenities.

These could include kitchen facilities, or even a designated area for workers to eat lunch together in a separate room.

“A lot of modern offices now have a kitchen-type area where people can make a coffee, heat up their lunch, or so on. It’s certainly providing a way for people to take a break and socialise with their colleagues.”

“There’s actually an important business outcome here in personalisation. If you have a lunch table area where people get to know each other and share experiences and so on, it builds a team-like atmosphere.”

Tooma says the important factor is that even if employees have a high workload, they need to make sure they are taking regular breaks in order to improve productivity and reduce stress.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t drive a culture of overworking. People just end up working excessive hours and employers will find out it costs them so much more in the long run because of stress, sick leave and the long-term health of the employee.”

“Promoting a healthy lifestyle, even beyond the office, is good business.”

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