For many of us, the British lunchbreak — if we can grab time for one — amounts at best to a quick dash to the cafe for a BLT and a packet of crisps which is then eaten while sat at our desks. And woe betide the employee who reaches for their mouse for some surreptitious online shopping.
But hope is on the horizon for those of us who would like to use that precious midday respite for catching up on personal emails and scouring the web for a last-minute weekend flight to Barcelona. A website campaign at www.gone2lunch.com is calling for a lunch hour pardon on non-work-related internet activity.
The Gone2Lunch crusade proposes the introduction of the virtual lunchtime, or VLT, a midday amnesty period when the surveillance and regulation of personal email and internet access is relaxed.
By the end of the year, Gone2Lunch hopes to have gathered up to 100,000 signatures through its online petition, which will then be used to substantiate its appeal to the government, the trade union bodies and the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses).
It is hoped that company managers will be compelled to respond to the demands and take positive action.
Launched by Bristol-based internet and email management company Inty, Gone2Lunch.com states its mission is "to ensure workers get their proper entitlement of a stress-free and private lunch hour at work". It resolves that the British lunchtime must be preserved against the threats of Big Brother style management, and that the "draconian" internet policies of many UK companies cannot continue to deprive workers of the privacy they legitimately deserve.
A spate of recent high-profile cases, including the sacking up to 150 employees over the question of web privacy, have helped to illustrate the "nit-picking of these reactionary companies", says an Inty spokesperson, and have sparked the Gone2Lunch campaign.
With hopeful precedents on the continent, the FEE (Federation of European Employers) also believes that the cause can be successful. The FEE echoes the Gone2Lunch call for "flexibility and common sense" in creating a "fair and consistent" web surveillance policy that will benefit employer and employee alike.
In the first three days since going live with its campaign, Gone2Lunch.com has already received an optimistic online response of up to 200 signatures. Gone2Lunch's Neil Watson hopes that this "tongue-in-cheek" idea will continue to raise the attention of the nation's workers.
So perhaps before long, many of us can be enjoying our VLTs with our BLTs…