If you’re in the UK, especially London, or the USA, you’ve got a bad reputation with Lunch. That’s right, taking lunches at your desk or in under 15 minutes in the cafeteria or office kitchen is not how lunch wants to be eaten. Numerous studies have explored the importance of small breaks throughout the day and a lunch that diverts attention from the stress of the day to well, enjoying your lunch. We know that breaks increase productivity and generally make us happier, saner people. On the contrary, not taking breaks increases our stress levels, increases our chance to develop depression and one last side effect, it could increase our mortality rate.
What’s surprising is that the majority of countries working longer hours take fewer breaks and are less productive. If having shorter work days and taking more breaks means getting more done, why aren’t more countries latching onto the idea?
We’ve taken a look at a few countries across the world and examined how they spend their workday; how long they lunch and how frequently they step away from their desks.
Countries that take breaks seriously
Spain: Though the Spanish work longer hours, their lunch breaks are usually an hour long. This hour is spent eating sometimes a two-course meal, socialising with colleagues and never eaten at a desk. It’s not rare to find employees taking 5-15 minute breaks throughout the day for a coffee or biscuits while reading the newspaper or talking with a workmate. Though Spain’s economy is struggling, the Spanish still find little ways to make their day a little brighter.
France: 20 years ago the French enjoyed one and a half hour lunch breaks, but recent figures show that the French workers are now taking no more than a half an hour break. But we’ve also got to remember that the French, by law, are only allowed to work 35 hours a week. No matter what. This gives them time to enjoy a plate of steak frites and a beautiful glass of red wine, not worrying about the pending E-mail sent at 6:07pm until the next workday.
Sweden: There’s a word in Swedish that can’t be translated into English. It’s fika. Fika is a little like a coffee break, but then again, it’s also so much more. It’s the time of day when all employees, bosses and assistants alike, spend time drinking coffee accompanied by a sweet pastry. The word is derived from the word fikapaus, which means taking a break from work. I personally think more companies should take part in this tradition!
Norway: In a country where the average workday is from 8am to 4pm and with an overall unemployment rate at 3%, one of the lowest in the world, Norway’s got it figured out. Coffee breaks are common throughout the day and employees socialise with each other rather than taking breaks alone. Norwegians, like their Scandinavian counterparts believe that happy workers are more productive workers.
Germany: Known for their productivity and focus, the Germans also know to escape for lunch. Though their break times during the day may be short or limited, the Germans usually step out of the office for 30 minutes to an hour for lunch. Having lunch in small groups, usually outside of the office is an almost everyday affair.
Let’s learn from these countries. Though you probably don’t want to get away from your desk, or don’t want to take time away from finishing your tasks, it’s a good idea to ignore your thoughts and grab a coffee or take a quick walk outside. Having a proper lunch is pretty important for your body and health and nothing, not even a deadline should take priority over that.