The Challenge


How might we create healthy communities within and beyond the workplace? read the brief


Permission To Take A Break

Many people rush lunch breaks. We might dash to the nearest fast food restaurant, or true workaholics may skip lunch altogether.

What is it?

Short Answer:Rewarding employees for taking their full lunchtime allowance.

Long Answer: A system that encourages people to take their full lunch break. Its aim is to change the mind-set of people who avoid taking lunch breaks, and show them it’s something to value.This will make for a more energetic, productive afternoon in the workplace. The level of work will also be enhanced. Eventually the mentality of employees and employers will be changed; realization would set in, that taking the entire lunch break has a positive impact on the rest of the day. Lunch will become a habit, and people will feel the mental health benefits.

What are the benefits of your concept for the individual and the employer?
Whether you spend your lunch break relaxing, going to the gym, socializing, or eating at a restaurant; taking a break can allow time to think and be more reflective. This can result in being more active and alert in the afternoon, therefore increasing activity and quality of work. Not only would productivity be increased within the workplace, but there would also be physical benefits through the inactive ‘down time’ and the nutritional benefits of having lunch. If the work place is outside, more physical work requires higher levels of energy, so as well as giving the worker an energy boost, lengthier lunch breaks could also prevent injury. This would also result in having a more active social life outside work through increased energy levels. If the human body lacks energy, we can become complacent and lack focus. If concentration is lacking, mistakes are likely to be made.
What might the impact of your concept be and how might it be measured?
The system will be deemed a success upon a significant increase in staff taking their full lunch break. Taking a shorter lunch break is thought to be looked upon in a positive way in a lot of work places. The system in question would not only take away the stigma of having the maximum allowance for lunch, it would also make it more acceptable within the workplace.
How might your concept be designed to scale and spread to reach as many people as possible?
The system can be used in any working environment. Most companies allow their full time staff an hour break for lunch. Managers / supervisors would simply need to make note of the time taken away from the place of work. In small companies or for individuals who work alone, colleagues or family members of the individuals could take charge of the lunch rota. A pre-arranged lunch time could be specified in the morning each day, and the worker could then let them know they are going to have lunch. Individuals who work alone, and also live alone could also take part. They could simply write down at the beginning of the day what time they intend on taking lunch. Once something has been written down, the individual is far more likely to stick to their arrangements.
How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?
It would be a good idea to start off by testing the system at a few small businesses. If successful, employees and employers would spread the word to their friends who would be encouraged to begin the system in their workplace.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Tremayne Gilling

January 19, 2013, 19:14PM
Nice idea. It becomes hard to think straight when you've been looking at the same screen for hours! Actually taking your break at lunch can only help your mind-set.

Alexander Kenmure

January 15, 2013, 14:27PM
Good spot re: the importance of lunch breaks (he says sat at his computer on OpenIDEO during a lunch break...). Wonder if there are any IT solutions to basically shut systems down over a lunch break period, or get managers to effectively close their office. I find even when I have a full lunch break time, the lure of the online world (shopping, emails, twitter, Batman sites) way too tempting.

Sam Brinkley

January 15, 2013, 16:30PM
Thanks for your thoughts, Alexander. At least you've made a start by taking time off work. The next stage is to pull yourself away from the computer! One solution to the problem would be for managers / supervisors to change their attitude towards lunch. Once they realise the benefits of taking their full lunch allowance, they're more likely to pass the message on to their employees. The characteristics of the boss also has an impact; if he/she sets rules over lunch breaks, and takes the hard line, their employees have no choice other than to abide by the rules. I see IT solutions that shut down computer systems being necessary to those individuals who work independently. If you work in a company with numerous employees, what's your bosses view on taking a lunch break?

Claire Baker

January 10, 2013, 15:30PM
I think this is a great concept Sam, I've recently started making sure I thank my full hour break and have noticed a real difference.

Sam Brinkley

January 10, 2013, 15:54PM
Hi, Claire. Thanks for your feedback. It's great to see people are taking time out of their day to recharge their batteries, to make for a productive afternoon.

Mohamed Haji Mohamed

January 09, 2013, 13:27PM
Nice idea Sam. Yes work is important but break is equally important too and to encourage employees to take their full lunch break is a good idea. Like Chris mentioned a resting period for your body can have significant effect on how you continue the rest of your day.

Chris Whellams

January 09, 2013, 12:59PM
I really like the idea Sam. Promoting that the workers take their full lunch break is a great idea. As currently there are probably many companies where the employees work through their lunch break so aren't having a rest period during the day. Which must effect there work that they do.

Sam Brinkley

January 09, 2013, 17:55PM
Thanks, Chris! Exactly my thoughts.
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