“Oh, I’m really sorry, the jacket potato took ages to arrive…” Do you feel guilty about taking a lunch break?

By Mike Oliver, Trainee Health Psychologist.

What has the length of time it takes to queue up for a jacket potato got to do with taking breaks at work? For some people, it turns out that it’s a handy way to explain to their colleagues why they’re “late” back from lunch. And by “late”, I don’t mean “late”. All they’ve done is taken a bit longer than they feel comfortable in taking for their lunch break.

How have we got to the point where some people feel guilty about taking their legally allowable break?

Taking a break is good for your health isn’t it? So taking breaks is just common sense isn’t it? It’s certainly not common practice. At the place I work, our latest staff survey told us that 42% of our workforce, either don’t take a lunch break at all or take less than the legally required minimum time of 20 minutes. (Yes, that’s right – it is the law for your employer to allow most workers to take a 20 minute, uninterrupted break, at some point during the day). There appears to be a growing trend nationally for large numbers of people not to take breaks at work, with surveys reporting that between 66% and 82% of workers do not always take their breaks (Bupa, 2015; Mastercard/Ipsos Mori, 2016).

In my research into the psychological and social benefits of taking breaks during the working day (in office settings), I uncovered an amazing set of thoughts and behaviours linked to taking breaks (or not) during the working day. As well as review and meta-analysis of literature in the field, I was curious to find out how people thought about taking breaks.  Putting it simply, I asked groups of office workers at a large employer, the following, deeply insightful, questions:

  • “Do you take your lunch breaks?”
  • “Why?” Or: “Why not?”

Using a combination of my curiosity and a structured way of analysing what people said, I found that:

  • Lots of people feel anxious and guilty about taking breaks
  • Work “wins”. Faced with a choice when they’re really busy, even if someone wants to take a break, then work “wins”
  • If you’ve got a great set of colleagues who all want to take lunch breaks, then guess what… you’ll take your breaks!  And if you don’t have a great set of colleagues, then guess what…?
  • If you choose to take your break at your desk, then people acknowledge that they are “fair game” for being given work to do!
  • It’s not  as simple as 2 groups emerging (those who do, and those who don’t take breaks) – people move from group to group depending on lots of situational factors

I’m now trying to work with these themes to look for ways to change the culture to one where people at least feel more comfortable to take a break if they want to. Clearly, if you have a job, the culture at your workplace will almost certainly be different to the one where I work, but perhaps, this blog might make you think a bit differently. Go on, stop reading this, move away from your screen… and take a break!


Mike will be sharing more about his research into the consequences of taking breaks (or not) during the working day at Psychologist in the Pub on Wednesday 1st May at The Glebe in Stoke.

Mike currently in his third year studies in his Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University, which he combines with working in the Public Health team in a Local Authority. Mike can be contacted via: m.oliver@student.staffs.ac.uk


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Stoke Psychology in the Pub returns on 3rd October 2018!

We are pleased to announce the return of the Stoke Psychology in the Pub series of talks for the 2018/19 academic year.

The Psychology in the Pub series features a range of talks about various aspects of psychology but in the setting of The Glebe Pub in Stoke-on-Trent. The talks are open to anyone with an interest in psychology, including staff and students from Staffordshire University as well as the general public. Talks typically take place on the first Wednesday of the month and start at 6pm (although it is recommended to arrive by 5:30 to get a seat and refreshments from the bar).

This year’s series features a range of talks delivered by researchers from Staffordshire and Keele universities, including:

3rd October 2018 Dr Rachel Povey (Staffordshire University): Urghh, I’m not eating that!” Why children don’t eat their greens and what we can do about it.
7th November 2018 Dr Yvonne Skipper (Keele University): How mindset can lead to success
5th December 2018 Dr Mike Batashvili (Staffordshire University):  “Do You Fear What I Fear?”: Maths Anxiety and Christmas Shopping

For further details of the Psychology in the Pub series please click here.

Directions to The Glebe Pub can be found via this link.

We look forward to seeing you at the talks – no booking is required for the talks, just turn up on the day!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Jo Lloyd featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing her Stoke Psychologist in the Pub talk

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Dr Joanne Lloyd

Dr Joanne Lloyd, Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University, was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s Stuart Gordon early evening show talking about the Stoke Psychologist in the Pub series and her talk on “Is Gambling Really the Son of Avarice or the Father of Despair”?

You can listen to Dr Lloyd’s interview via the BBC iPlayer link below:

The Psychologist in the Pub series takes place on the first Wednesday of the month and is co-organised by the West Midlands Branch of the British Psychological Society and the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research. The series of talks is kindly hosted by The Glebe Pub in Stoke town, near Stoke Minster.

Missed the first talk of the 2016/17 series? Don’t worry, upcoming talks include:

Weds 2nd November: Dr. Jim Grange, Keele University.The Reproducibility Crisis in Psychological Science: One Year Later

Weds 7th December: Dave Spence. “The Psychology of Beliefs: Christmas Special”

Weds 1st February: Dr. Daniel Jolley, Staffordshire University. “Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless?”

Talks start at 6pm, but we recommend arriving at 5:30pm to buy food and drink, and find a seat! Directions to the Glebe Pub can found here.


Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire Centre. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams, Health and Behaviour Change, and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Stoke Psychology in the Pub returns for 2016/17!

We are pleased to announce that a new series of the Stoke Psychologist in the Pub talks starts on the 5th October. The series is organised by the British Psychological Society’s West Midlands Branch, the BPS Stoke Hub, and psychologists at Staffordshire University, and very kindly hosted by The Glebe Pub in Stoke.

The Glebe Pub, Stoke-upon-Trent

The Glebe Pub, Stoke-upon-Trent

The talks provide a friendly, informal and inspiring space for anyone with an interest in Psychology, to hear about the latest psychological research being conducted in the West Midlands.

The 2015/16 Stoke Psychology in the Pub series saw a series of great talks from academic psychologists working in Staffordshire University’s Psychology department and universities around the region on subjects as diverse as psychogeography, false confessions, the psychology of art and aesthetics, cyberpsychology and consumer psychology!

The 2016/17 edition of #PitPStoke starts on Wednesday 5th October 2016, 6pm, with a talk by Dr Jo Lloyd (Staffordshire University) titled “Is gambling really the son of avarice and the father of despair?“.

Upcoming talks (may be subject to change) include:

2nd Nov 2016: Dr. Jim Grange (Keele University)The Reproducibility Crisis in Psychological Science: One Year Later

7th Dec 2016: Dave Spence, Keele University. The Psychology of Beliefs: Christmas Special

1st Feb 2017: Dr. Daniel Jolley, Staffordshire University.Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless?

1st Mar 2017: Andrew Wood, Staffordshire University.Irrational Beliefs in Sport – Helpful or Hindrance?

The talks take place in the Glebe Pub, Glebe Street, Stoke-upon-Trent, ST4 1HG. Talks start at 6pm and last until 7pm, with opportunities for questions to the invited speaker and networking after the talk has finished. Guests are advised to arrive early to secure a seat and order food/drinks! Directions to the Glebe Pub can be found here.

Students, staff and anyone interested in psychology from the general public are very welcome to attend the talks! No need to book just show up!

Don’t forget that you can join in the Psychology in the Pub conversation using the #PitPStoke twitter hashtag or follow the Staffordshire University Psychology Department twitter feed for live tweets (@StaffsPsych)!

We hope to see you there!

Stoke’s Psychology in the Pub returns for 2015/16!

After a highly successful first edition of the Stoke Psychology in the Pub series in 2014/15, we are pleased to announce that a new series of talks by psychologists from Staffordshire University and the West Midlands region starts on 7th October!

Stoke’s Psychology in the Pub is organised as part of the British Psychological Society‘s West Midlands branch. The talks provide a forum for psychologists, healthcare professionals, students, and anyone with an interest in Psychology to hear about the latest psychological research being conducted in the West Midlands.

The 2014/15 edition saw a series of great and inspiring talks from academic psychologists working in Staffordshire University’s Psychology department and universities around the region, including talks on subjects as diverse as: managing stress; the psychology of swearing; effects of perceived social norms on alcohol use; food allergies; benefits of green spaces on health; sexuality; as well as a musical final edition with psychology-related songs! Click here to see photos from the other 2014/15 talks.

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Staffordshire University’s Keith Walmsley-Smith at June 2015’s PitPStoke

The 2015/16 edition of #PitPStoke starts on Wednesday 7th October 2015 with David Parkes (Staffordshire University) talking about “Psychogeography“.

Subsequent talks in 2015 (which may be subject to change) include Dr Alexandra Lamont (Keele University) talking about “Music, Emotion and Wellbeing” (4th November), and Colin Preece (Staffordshire University) discussing “Sherlock Holmes and Psychology” (2nd December).

The Glebe Pub, Stoke-upon-Trent

The Glebe Pub, Stoke-upon-Trent

The talks take place in the Glebe Pub, Glebe Street, Stoke-upon-Trent, ST4 1HG. Talks start at 6pm and last until 7pm, with opportunities for questions to the invited speaker and networking after the talk has finished. Guests are advised to arrive early to secure a seat and order food/drinks! Directions to the Glebe Pub can be found here.

Students, staff and anyone interested in psychology from the general public are very welcome to attend the talks! No need to book just show up!

Don’t forget that you can join in the Psychology in the Pub conversation using the #PitPStoke twitter hashtag or follow the Staffordshire University Psychology Department twitter feed for live tweets (@StaffsPsych)! We hope to see you there!