One in three likely to skip lunch breaks

Article date: 18 August 2011

  • Employees’ nutrition suffers as work pressures and stress prevail 
    • Nearly a third (30%) of employees skip lunch breaks
    • Over a third (38%) of employers who offer food do not offer healthy options
    • Yet 43% of employees say bosses encourage lunch breaks in a bid to look after staff health.

UK workers’ eating habits are suffering due to stress, according to research from the forthcoming Aviva Health of the Workplace report1. Although employees and bosses recognise the value of taking a lunch break for wellbeing, longer hours and workplace pressures are stopping staff from taking the breaks they need.

Significant barriers to taking a daily break remain, particularly when workers are under pressure. Nearly a third (30%) of employees say they are unlikely to take a lunch break, only a marginal improvement on the 37% who gave the same response in 2009.

A quarter (25%) will only take a lunch break if they feel their workload allows it, while 13% of employees skip meals in the workplace altogether. For some employees, stress results in other poor dietary habits, with 19% claiming they overeat at work. To help encourage better eating habits in the workplace Aviva has produced an online guide to healthy lunches. This can be downloaded at

Aviva also found that employers do recognise the importance of lunch breaks and eating well. Nearly half (43%) of workers are encouraged to take a lunch break as employers recognise the value of a good work/life balance.

Although it seems that for many, food options in the workplace are somewhat limited. Of those employers who offer food in the workplace (45%), over a third (38%) mainly offer unhealthy options. As a result, employees try to keep themselves healthy with over a third (35%) stating they try to eat healthy food and 30% usually bringing in their own healthy lunches.

Health and eating well suffer when workloads are high. As a result of longer working hours, nearly 15% of employees believe their health is affected because they are eating unhealthily at work.

Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development, Aviva UK Health says: “It’s well documented that eating more healthily can improve general wellbeing and life expectancy, so there are countless benefits to adopting this approach in the workplace. It’s also important for people to take a break from their desks where possible as this can help improve both morale and efficiency for employees.

“Employers can help by offering healthy food options to support and encourage their staff to eat well, and by removing those barriers that still exist to taking a proper lunch break. Employees too need to break the habit of skipping lunch or eating at their desks. A cultural shift in the workplace towards proper lunch breaks will improve overall employee wellbeing as well as productivity.”

The Aviva Health of the Workplace report canvassed the views of employers and their staff on issues relating to workplace wellbeing. The results provide a snapshot of current issues and concerns relating to health in workplaces around the UK. The full report will be published by Aviva in September 2011. 


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Sarah Poulter 
01904 452828 / 07800 691569

1 Aviva Health of the Workplace is an annual research study of 2,000 employers and employees to examine workplace wellbeing and the current issues affecting companies and their staff. The research was conducted by independent research company One Poll between 8 and 12 July 2011. The 2009 research was conducted by Tickbox.

Notes to editors:

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide more than 53 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.  

We are the UK’s largest insurer with 19 million customers and one in three households has a relationship with us. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market. Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top 10 most valuable brands and Aviva plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at

Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life. Find out more at

The Aviva media centre at includes images, company and product information and a news release archive.

For broadcast-standard video, please visit

Follow us on twitter:

* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009.
** at 31 December 2010.

Back to top