Two-hour lunch break to boost productivity?

It’s been suggested that employers could boost their homeworkers’ productivity by allowing them to arrange their working day with a two-hour break at lunchtime. Is this really a good idea?

Interesting concept?

In November 2020 employers were encouraged to grant all their homeworkers a two-hour lunch break on the basis that it could boost overall productivity rates.

At first glance this doesn’t sound like such a great idea, but in the winter months there could certainly be some benefits for both you and your employees.

Reduced sunlight

During the winter months, there is naturally less sunlight. It provides us with much needed vitamin D which is known to improve mood, health, general wellbeing and boosts serotonin levels.

Research also shows that homeworkers tend to get less access to sunlight generally. This is partly because they don’t commute in daylight hours or leave their workplace at break times.

Depression rates

It’s thought that this is one of the main reasons why there are higher rates of depression amongst homeworkers. The other main reason is less social contact than they would get in a workplace.

By having a longer lunch break employees could gain health benefits, e.g. by being able to exercise in daylight hours rather than in the cold and dark.

They would also be able to arrange to meet others for an extended period of time and/or undertake any care responsibilities.

Screen breaks

Another benefit of a longer lunch break is that it can encourage an employee to take time away from their workstation. As well as giving them a good break from their computer screen, they won’t be sitting for hours on end - a trap homeworkers can easily fall into.

Homeworkers who have longer lunch breaks are also likely to eat more healthily as they have time to prepare rather than rely on convenience or snack foods.

Implementing the idea

If you want to try to boost staff productivity by having longer lunch breaks, you should lay down some ground rules. Depending on your business, it may be better to have a set lunchtime for everyone or have staggered breaks so that you have adequate levels of staffing cover. Staff should be encouraged to go outside where possible, but you can’t insist on this.

Tip. You could facilitate extended lunch breaks by agreeing with staff that they will work a slightly longer day overall. For example, rather than working from 9.00am to 5.00pm with a one-hour lunch break, they could work 8.30am to 5.30pm with a two-hour break. You might also only allow homeworkers to take longer lunch breaks in winter months. Tip. Make it an explicit rule that except for exceptional circumstances, an employee cannot move their lunch break to the start or the end of their working day of their own accord. To move their lunch break to another time, the employee must have the prior written permission of their manager and a valid reason for the change.

Longer lunch breaks can boost productivity as they allow homeworkers to take an extended break from their computer screens and workstations during the day. Also, in the winter months, they allow for exercise in daylight hours which improves mood. They can be accommodated by allowing staff to spread their working day over more hours.

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