More than one in five women miss their lunch break
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According to Edenred's survey, more than one in five women misses at least part of their lunch break at work or eats a quick lunch while working. 15% of men do this. How do lunch habits affect work efficiency and health in the longer term?
Women miss a proper lunch break more often
More than one in five Finnish women, i.e. 22%, do not use the entire meal break at work or have a quick lunch while working. 15% of men are in a hurry with lunch. Instead of taking a lunch break, it is common to eat while working, especially in the social and health sector, this is what one in three people working in the sector said they do.
When women take a meal break at work, it is also significantly shorter than men's. About half of Finns, or 53%, work where the meal break is 30 minutes. 58% of women and 48% of men have a half-hour meal break. Women also rarely have a meal break of more than half an hour, according to the survey, only 14% of women and 31% of men had a 30–60 minute meal break.
"Compromising on lunch is a bad thing, because lunch has a variety of good health effects. A versatile lunch keeps blood sugar steady, increases alertness and reduces snacking. Eating a proper lunch offers an opportunity for a small break in the middle of the working day, which helps with stress management and recovery. The social importance of lunch should not be forgotten either." Laura Kuusela, director of sustainability at Edenred Finland, states.
The information comes from a survey conducted by Edenred Finland in October 2022. One thousand employed Finns between the ages of 18 and 62 responded to the survey, of which 51 percent were men and 49 percent were women. The survey is nationally representative according to gender, age and area of residence.
Bargaining for lunch is not always your choice
However, taking a lunch break is not always in the employee's own hands. Women work more often than men in positions where a proper lunch break is challenging to implement. These jobs are found, for example, in hospitals, institutions, and companies, where the work is done on a rotating basis at customers' homes. According to Statistics Finland, 87% of those working in the health and wellness fields are women. There 79% of women work in the areas of breeding.
Young employees, i.e. 18-25-year-olds, skip lunch more often than older employees – one in five does this. Still, young employees in particular wish for a lunch benefit in their employment benefits, which, according to the survey, they do not often use. Even half of the young employees wished for a lunch benefit.
"Young employees value the lunch benefit and other benefits the most, with which you can, for example, buy cultural and sports services and commuting tickets. This is what both 18-25-year-old and 25-40-year-old employees think. This gives a clue to thinking about future employee benefits. Breakfasts, parties, the telephone, and even intangible benefits such as remote work were clearly less important to young people than the traditional lunch benefit," says Kuusela.
Remote work has also affected lunch habits
During the Covid period, there was a widespread shift to remote work, and many have continued to work remotely even after the pandemic subsided. Often when working at home, the absorption of work can make you take a very short lunch break and the break can be forgotten anyway.
About 70 % of remote workers prepare their own lunch, according to a survey we conducted in 2020. However, home-cooked lunch often does not meet nutritional recommendations. Especially vegetables are eaten too little. You also get too little fiber from home lunch and too much bad fat.
"Nutritional recommendations, such as half a kilo of vegetables a day, are easier to implement when you eat a decent lunch in a lunch restaurant. Only 14% of Finnish men and 22% of women reach the half-kilo daily goal of vegetables. This was revealed in the FinnRavinto2017 study, the results of which were published in 2019, says Kuusela and continues:
"If you eat lunch at home or at work, you shouldn't get into the habit of having a quick lunch at the computer, but pay particular attention to the amount of vegetables. The easiest way to meet your nutritional goals is to eat at lunch restaurants that offer a salad table. In general, employers should encourage their employees to take a meal break and, if necessary, make such arrangements at the workplace , that taking a break will be successful."
The lunch benefit supports coping and a healthy diet, which reduces sick leave
The lunch benefit was already created after the Second World War. Even then, it was noticed that the employees were coping better thanks to the lunch benefit. Using the lunch benefit increases work efficiency by 20%, says the International Labor Organization ILO. According to the ILO, good nutrition also reduces workplace accidents.
A bad diet, on the other hand, leads to more sick leaves. In a study conducted in the United States and Britain, it was found to increase sickness absence by 21%. Vielife's study had 15,000 participants.
Our research also showed that the lunch benefit clearly increases the willingness to eat lunch in a restaurant. 65% of lunch benefit holders say that they eat lunch in a restaurant clearly more often than without a lunch benefit. Men shared this opinion more often than women.
Meal breaks are regulated in the Working Time Act. If the working day lasts more than six hours, half an hour's rest, or practically a meal break, is the minimum requirement. In some workplaces, such as hospitals, the employee does not have the opportunity to leave for a meal break, in which case he has the opportunity to have a forced meal. In that case, however, meals are counted as working time.
Employer, do you or do you offer a lunch benefit that increases work well-being?