Over two thirds of UK employees are working unpaid over lunches because of heavy workloads and manager expectations, according to a new survey from office supply specialist Viking. Of the 1,500 office workers surveyed, many employees felt “they were expected to” work through breaks, “wanted to look busy” for managers and 38% simply said they had “too much work” to fit in to the day.
While 82% said they felt their current lunch break allowance was long enough, a worrying two thirds (67%) admitted to working through their lunch at least once a week. That number is even higher (80%) for 25-34-year olds. A further 14% of all respondents said they do so every day.
The most overworked region in the UK is unsurprisingly London, with 77% of people admitting to working through lunch once or more every week, but in very close second was Northern Ireland, with 76% saying the same. Those least likely to take a working lunch were residents of Wales with only 42% saying they take a working lunch regularly.
While 64% of office workers nationally said they found their break either very or quite fulfilling, an almost identical amount (65%) said they wanted to relax more during their lunches. When asked what they would rather spend their time doing, the majority of respondents (52%) said they would simply like to be left to eat in peace. Among the other popular answers were:
- Reading – 28%
- Socialising – 20%
- Exercising – 19%
- Using a phone – 18%
- Shopping – 17%
- Social media – 15%
- Playing with pets – 11%
Chris Evans, from Viking commented: “Employers have a legal obligation to ensure their staff are being given the correct amount of breaks dependent on how long they’re working. If it becomes apparent staff are often working through their break then the issue needs to be addressed. Whether employees are being given too much work, or performance isn’t up to scratch, it’s not good for employee or employer if staff aren’t getting time to relax and regroup during the day.”