Do You Skip Your Lunch Break? Then You’re Losing Out On R500 000

So you might think it's okay to skip your lunch break, but a recent study conducted by CareerJunction has shown otherwise.


Kelleigh Korevaar |

Being a serial-lunch skipper might not seem like much when you do it, but a recent study conducted by CareerJunction has shown otherwise.

Related: This Entrepreneur And CEO Shares His 5-Step Plan To Career Victory

“The average South African works two and a half years overtime during their lifetime due to unused lunch breaks. That amounts to a staggering *R512, 465.00 worth of free work and unnecessary time spent at their desks instead of taking a break,” says CareerJunction’s Communications Manager, Odile Badenhorst.

But if you’re skipping your lunch break, you’re probably aware that you aren’t the only one who does it. Only one in three South Africans take their full lunch break.  Once or twice might not be an issue, but the research suggests that over a third of South Africans skip their lunch break completely between two to four times a week.

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And you’re probably doing it because you feel you have to or it is expected of you.  “In this fast-paced world of work, it’s a common, and unhealthy, mindset that the more hours we work, with no break, the more we’ll be admired or rewarded,” Badenhorst says.

But at what cost really? And in any case, this belief isn’t scientifically supported. According to research, regular breaks plus a healthy, well-balanced lunch break, increased productivity, improved mental well-being, boosted creativity, and encouraged healthy workplace habits.

In fact, in CareerJunction’s study, most people said they felt unhappy, stressed and indifferent when they worked through their lunch break.

The average allocated time for a lunch break is 60 minutes, but the average time taken by South Africans is only 24.5 minutes. Which is less than half the time you’re allowed to take, with only 5% actually take their full 60 minutes. And as for eating at your desk and picking the crumbs out from your keyboard later? Well, 67% said they eat at their desks whilst working.

Related: This Quiz Will Tell If You’re Burnt Out From Your Job – And What You Should Do

So why are you working yourself to burnout?

19% of people said they feel pressured not to take lunch, while 38% have too much work. In fact, 73% of participants said the reason they skip their lunch break is because they have too much work to do or an unexpected task cropped up. “While our research revealed that the majority of South African employees listed unexpected work responsibilities or too much work as reasons, other reasons included having to cover for others, sacrificing lunch breaks to leave work earlier, financial difficulties, or simply not caring about lunch,” adds Badenhorst.

But you should be using that R500 000 lunch break – it brings benefits.

Here’s How To Relish Your Lunch Break

If you can, go for a walk.

And now that it’s summer, it’s even better. It only takes 10 – 20 minutes in the sun for your body to make vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of  calcium and promotes bone growth. Plus, it fights diseases like heart disease and reduces your risk of developing multiple sclerosis and getting the flu. Just don’t forget the suncream! We recommend you pick up some of the Sunumbra Daily SPF15 Suncream (R269, Buy It Here)

Do an online course.

If you don’t want to leave your desk then take an hour of your day to do an online course. You’ll not only be taking a much-needed breaking but you will be working on something that betters you. We love Alison, because it has courses on a wide range of topics and a lot of them are lunch-break approved, they only take an hour. Best part? They are completely free!

Related: 14 Delicious Easy Lunches That Will Help You Lose Weight

Do a 15 minute work out.

This wouldn’t be an MH article if we didn’t advise you to get moving. Most people don’t work out during lunch because they feel like they don’t have the time. Between getting changed into gym clothes, heading to the gym, working out, showering and getting back, it might seem difficult to do in an hour. But that’s why we’re fans of working smart. You don’t need an hour and a half session to get those gains. Do a targeted 15 minute workout and that leaves you plenty of time to eat, shower and even browse Instagram. Here are 15-minute workouts you can do every day of the week:

Monday: Eliminate Kilojoules With This 15 Minute Workout

Tuesday: The 15 Minute Workout You Can Do In Your Lunch Break

Wednesday: The 2-in-1 15 Minute Workout The Builds Muscle And Burns Fat At The Same Time

Thursday: The 15-Minute Bodyweight Workout You Can Do Anywhere

Friday: Boost Strength in Less Time With This 15-Minute Workout

Bottom line: Whatever it is you decide to do in your hour a day, you should be taking it. Job burnout is on the rise and there is no need for your lunch break to be a contributor for that. “There’s no question that we’re at greater risk of burnout today than we were 10 years ago,” said Ron Friedman, a psychologist who works with private and corporate clients, in an article we did on the 7 common causes of job burnout and how to avoid it (you can read it here). Plus, the R500 000 you’re giving away for free just isn’t worth your sanity.

*Full-time work life from 18 to 65 years old. Working days in a year: 260 days (365 days minus weekends. StatsSA average monthly earnings paid to employees in the formal non-agricultural sector at R13,621 a month.

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