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A lunch a day keeps the misery away

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A National Spotlight, East, South East & London

sign saying learn to lunch with kingfisher sitting on topNothing 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.

Spreading the wordPoster for learn to lunch

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.


Kingfisher Academy family
The Kingfishers

If you have new ideas or would like to share your Learn to Lunch experiences we would love to hear from you at

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  1. Comment by Gail Peck posted on

    Great stuff guys. It was fun working with you all 🙂

  2. Comment by Nicky Hobby posted on

    So proud of the Kingfishers and their passion for encouraging everyone to take their lunchbreaks. Through supporting them in this project they have made me change my approach to lunch. I now go out for a short walk and take time away from my desk to eat my lunch. It has most definitely helped me. Well done for a simple but very effective product.

  3. Comment by PAUL LUNT posted on

    Not wishing to put a dampener on things but isn't it just common sense that doing something you enjoy at lunch time and making sure you do it is the requirement.

    • Replies to PAUL LUNT>

      Comment by Howard Pang posted on

      Common sense indeed, but what we say is rarely what we do!

  4. Comment by Howard Pang posted on

    Thank you to all the Kingfishers, Navrosa, Nicky, Susan, Ian and everyone who made the Local Academy special.

    What a journey we've had!

  5. Comment by Navroza Ladha posted on

    Well done to you all! I’ve definitely changed by lunch time habits and feel much better for it. Navroza

  6. Comment by Janet O'Connor posted on

    Well done Nicky Hobby and the Kingfishers for all your passion , enthusiasm and commitment to changing our culture . Our Wellness Survey feedback confirmed we all need to do much more to ensure everyone takes a meaningful break so the more we can promote and role model the better !

  7. Comment by Dougie McKinlay posted on

    Great Idea pity it has been launched (not lunched) on the back of a departmental announcement that Staff Canteens are to close as it's perceived as unfair that some staff have them and others don't and a Trolley service will be introduced. The trolley service will only encourage people to stay at their desk all day instead of getting up & taking a break.