Nothing like a bold statement to start things off! But so say The Kingfisher family from our 2017 Academy and there is plenty of truth to this. Studies have consistently shown that staff do not fully take their lunch breaks at work, this leads to higher stress levels, sick leave and loss of productivity.
It’s the reason why The Kingfishers created Learn to Lunch, a cross-departmental campaign advocating civil servants take meaningful lunches every day, all year round. In addition, they’ve compiled a compilation of their findings and ideas in the Learn to Lunch Booklet– we hope you find inspiration from it.
They’ve already reached out to many department and agency heads, promoting the benefits for both staff and departments. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive - there is certainly a strong desire for a healthy workplace. They want to spread the word further so read their story and how you can get involved.
A long, long time ago
It all began two years ago, when a group of civil servants across every department and profession were brought together for the Civil Service Local ESEL Academy, a four-day event consisting of talks and activities that would build up our presentation, communication and leadership skills. Early on we were divided into teams, working together through various team-building exercises. Our final task was to present to a panel of senior civil servants, in a Dragon’s Den format, our project that would aid building the vision for a ‘Brilliant Civil Service’. And thus, Learn to Lunch was born.
Our key objectives were simple. We wanted to promote the benefits of taking a meaningful lunch break, and get more people across the Civil Service to do so. User research involved conducting interviews, panel discussions and surveys so that we could reach a better understanding of how civil servants were using their lunch breaks (or not, in many cases!).
What is a meaningful lunch?
The term ‘meaningful’ has been featured a few times now. That’s no accident. Clearly there’s a difference between what many of us consider as lunch (scoffing down a sandwich in a few seconds before getting straight back to work) and the ideal lunch break, so early on we differentiated the two. Of course, what is considered meaningful is different to all of us. A quiet period of escapism reading a book is every bit as purposeful as a lunchtime gym session. Indeed, why not do both. There is no reason to follow the same routine for lunch every day.
We have included several ideas in the Learn to Lunch booklet to experiment with.
Throughout our year we engaged our focus group with regular newsletters, a mid year progress catch-up and promoting Learn to Lunch at various wellbeing events. We pitched to several departmental wellbeing leads and senior civil servants. For instance, Mik from our team presented to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) seniors about the initiative. They all trialled the project and lead by example, creating a workplace culture that encouraged their staff to take lunches. As a result of this trial, Mik is now in the process of organising a full launch for the entire FSA!
We also collaborated with a fellow CS Local Academy team on their initiative, the A-Z to Better Wellbeing. Finally, at our academy wrap-up event, we handed out wristband Learn to Lunch pledges to the other teams – hundreds made their pledge that day!
Through out the project our team mentor, Nicky Hobby, and our ‘dragon’ Navrosa Ladha, have been incredible in their unwavering guidance and support, sharing the message on the importance of the humble lunch break.
Of course, there’s only so much a small team can do. Now it’s over to you. Help spread the message about the benefits of a meaningful lunch break and make the pledge to take yours. Dip into our Learn to Lunch Booklet to be inspired and start something in your department.
If you have new ideas or would like to share your Learn to Lunch experiences we would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.