Kiwis urged to maximise use of 120-240 hours of ‘wellbeing time’ a year

Thursday , 28 March 2019 by Campbell Gibson

Southern Cross Health Society (SCHS) has launched a new campaign, Lunch Well, to encourage Kiwis to ease the impacts of modern life through active use of lunch breaks to benefit their wellbeing.

Inspired by recent reporting on the culture of not taking breaks, Southern Cross Health Society surveyed 495 of its own people and found that fewer than half were maximising their full lunch breaks.

Chris Watney, Chief Marketing Officer, says the business was surprised by the survey results given the Health Society’s strong focus on health and wellbeing.

“We place a lot of emphasis on building a positive culture around wellbeing and life balance, yet these results show we still have work to do. That’s why we’ve started Lunch Well, firstly to acknowledge this is something we want to motivate our people to enjoy and ultimately to encourage other businesses to join the conversation and make changes too,” he says.

Southern Cross Lunchwell banner“Lunch Well addresses just how important breaks, and what we do with them, are for both mental and physical wellbeing and aims to help people achieve a more balanced life. While we’re focusing on our own workplace, this applies to everyone in all occupations – from parents juggling life with kids at home to part-time workers and students.”

Half-hour and one-hour lunch breaks that go unused can account for 120-240 hours¹ each year, respectively, which could be used to enhance overall wellbeing, whether it’s simply taking more exercise or even learning a new language.

Too many meetings, workload and long hours of sitting down were stand out issues from the survey. Southern Cross Health Society hopes that Lunch Well will ultimately help reduce preventable long-term health issues including diabetes and cardiovascular events².

Southern Cross Health Society Chief Medical Officer Dr Stephen Child says, “Taking time out at work each day can not only give your brain a much-needed rest, it can also have a significant benefit to your physical health. Getting your body moving and your heart rate up has fantastic health benefits, while people who don’t regularly take a break are four times more likely to eat unhealthily³.”

The Southern Cross Health Society staff survey showed that:

  • Only 42 per cent of staff take their full lunch break every day
  • Nearly half of employees sit for more than seven hours each day
  • Workload and scheduled meetings were two of the key reasons for not taking a break
  • 70 per cent of those working on a rostered lunch break schedule took their full breaks (30 per cent didn’t) as opposed to just 22 per cent of staff in other teams taking their lunch break.

To promote the benefits of taking a break each day, a Lunch Well website offers tips how to lunch better and make the most of ‘free’ time.

Southern Cross Health Society will also be promoting a dedicated NZ Lunch Well Day on 28th of March to encourage Kiwis to better utilise their lunch breaks.

Tips for individuals

  • Fit in a workout on your lunchbreak.
  • Listen to some music. It’s a great mood booster stress reliever. It can reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and increase levels of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
  • Invite your colleague, boss or friend to join you for lunch. It will help you get away from your desk and the conversation will stimulate your brain in ways a computer screen cannot.
  • Start taking walking meetings. As well as getting some fresh air, research has shown that walking can lead to an increase in creativity.
  • Eat brain-powering foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids.

Tips for businesses and employees

  • Book meetings outside lunchtime (12-2pm) to free people up to take a break.
  • Lead from the top. If leaders don't take breaks, then teams are not likely to either.
  • Discourage eating at desks.
  • Encourage a culture of walking groups.
  • Provide spaces that are conducive for people to relax and eat lunch.


¹120 hours is based on a half-hour lunch break, five days a week, and 240 hours is based on a one-hour lunch break, five days a week.

²Source: Five reasons not to sit all day | Health Navigator NZ

³Source: Impacts of modern life on wellbeing, Clarity Insight (commissioned by Southern Cross Health Society), Nov 2018, survey with 753 New Zealanders