Research shows well-being at work in UK SMEs needs more attention with bosses rarely taking lunch and not encouraging lunchtime breaks.
SME bosses across the UK are setting a bad example to their staff at lunchtime, according to new research* from Paymentsense, Europe’s leading card machine provider. Employees said that nearly half (47%) of their bosses either never leave the office for lunch, or only do so sometimes, and half (49%) rarely take more than 30 minutes. Worryingly, 8% of SME bosses never take a break for lunch.
In terms of encouraging well-being and good healthy habits at work, over a third of SME workers surveyed (36%) said that their boss didn’t encourage them to take a break for lunch. A further 12% of staff who are encouraged to take lunch break said they felt that their boss would judge them if they did.
Business owners running the smallest companies are setting the worst lunchtime culture example. The study found that, in firms with up to 10 employees, 43% of workers are not encouraged to take a lunch break by their boss. These leaders are also the worst offenders when it comes to not taking a lunch break themselves (15%) – amongst those that do, nearly a fifth (19%) don’t leave the office.
Helen Bailey, experienced business coach and founder of the Aviatrix research consultancy, said: “Taking a break is good for you and your business, helping you gain fresh insight on your current projects. Not taking lunch is a bad habit which can be a serious mistake – although you might think you are staying busy and productive, it can limit the time you have to step back and look at the bigger picture.
“This is limiting for your business – taking you away from strategic, unburdened, creative thinking. We all know that giving the brain a periodic rest is good for us but, as in so many areas, we don’t do what we know is good for us and others,” continued Bailey.
Independent business coach Rachel Gilmore commented: “These statistics just show the tip of the iceberg. If a boss doesn’t encourage you to go to lunch it is a symbol that employees are not valued in the workplace. If employees are not valued then they don’t speak up and their ideas are not heard. They are also more likely to leave, so the SME will experience higher turnover of staff or increased absence through stress; both come at a cost to the organisation. Perhaps the real cost is an inability to realise potential, for the individuals and the company.”
Guy Moreve, Head of Marketing at Paymentsense said: “Our results suggest that many time-poor bosses view lunch breaks as an extravagance they can’t afford. Not having enough time is often cited by those running SMEs as a major challenge, so it’s understandable lunch breaks get overlooked.
“We know from working with 50,000 of the UK’s SMEs just how committed business leaders are, and although hard work is clearly a significant factor in a successful enterprise, it’s crucial that regular daily breaks are encouraged to maintain productivity and well-being,” added Moreve.
* Commissioned research took place from 4 to 5 July 2017 amongst 1,000 UK SME employees.