The average South African office worker sacrifices a total of 2.2 years to overtime by not taking lunch breaks‚ according to online job board CareerJunction.
Only one in three South Africans take their full lunch break‚ the company found‚ when conducting research amongst 3‚000 South Africans. Overall‚ more than a third of South Africans skip their lunch break altogether between two to four times per week.
“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 worth of free work and unnecessary time spent at their desks instead of taking a break‚” said Odile Badenhorst‚ CareerJunction’s communications manager.
The figure is higher if you earn above the national average. Seven out of ten people said the reason they skip their lunch break is because they have too much work to do or an unexpected task cropped up.
Affordability is another reason for people eating at their desks: Nearly six out of ten people surveyed said they bring leftovers or a packed lunch from home and 45% spend less than R100 per week on lunch.
CareerJunction said one in three people it surveyed are allowed a 30-minute lunch break‚ while 7% are allowed a 40-minute break and 55% a 60-minute break. The average time taken each day by South African employees is 24.5 minutes.
The survey also looked at smoke breaks and found that smokers in South Africa take‚ on average‚ three to four smoke breaks a day‚ with 42% of their colleagues saying they don’t mind if they do and 29% saying they don’t know or care.
Commenting on why so few employees take their lunch breaks‚ Badenhorst said: “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.”
While it was encouraging to see‚ from the research conducted‚ that the culture of working through break time largely came from the employees themselves rather than being enforced by bosses‚ Badenhorst encouraged employers to urge their staff to take regular breaks away from their desks.
“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‚” said Badenhorst.
However‚ she said‚ it was well researched that regular breaks‚ and a healthy‚ well-balanced lunch break in particular‚ increased productivity‚ improved mental well-being and boosted creativity.