Australian workers have too much work on their plate and not enough food.

For millions of Aussie workers taking a lunch break has become a thing of the past, a new survey has revealed.

The survey, conducted by The Australia Institute and Beyondblue for this year’s national Go Home on Time Day initiative, found that 3.8 million workers routinely don’t take a lunch break, with one in two saying it’s because they are ‘too busy’.

Of those who choose to take lunch breaks, 72 per cent say they eat at their desks, cut breaks short or postpone breaks until mid-afternoon.

Beyondblue CEO Ms Kate Carnell AO says many bosses and workers have lost sight of how taking a break can improve workers’ mental health and increase productivity.

“It’s great that people are committed to getting the job done, but it is sensible to take a break away from your desk or the production line to exercise and think about other things. A regular walk at lunchtime improves both your physical and mental health and you will resume work feeling refreshed,” she says.

A majority of people acknowledged that taking a break, even a short one to clear their head, makes them more productive. The survey revealed one in four people believe taking a full lunch break makes work less stressful and one in three say breaks make work more enjoyable.

The Australia Institute’s Executive Director Dr Richard Denniss says despite Australia’s reputation for being a land of ‘sickies’ and ‘smokos’ the evidence suggests otherwise.

“Lunch breaks have always been a part of modern workplaces, but in recent decades more and more people report being too busy or too rushed to do something as simple as walk away from their desk to eat their lunch. While Australians used to celebrate the practice of taking a long lunch, we’re now struggling to even manage a short one,” Mr Denniss says.

This year’s Go Home on Time Day campaign focuses on encouraging workplaces of all sizes to recognise and acknowledge the impact the workplace can have on workers’ mental health and wellbeing.

The full research paper ‘Hard to get a break?’ will be released in the lead-up to Go Home on Time Day.