So many options, so little time. Drive to a restaurant? Go down to the cafeteria and stand in line? How about turning on a little mood music, clicking on a favorite shopping site, browsing, and eating lunch at your desk?
When faced with leaving work for lunch or sharing that time with a computer, most office workers prefer to stay in.
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Why people like eating at their desk
Surprisingly, most office workers would rather eat at their desks than fight the masses at lunchtime. A recent survey by Optimum Research for Little Leaf Farms found that 76% of in-office workers eat lunch at their desks more than 50% of the time. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents say they prefer desk lunch: 56% say it's more convenient, and 43% say it makes them more productive.
Most corporations actively promote the idea of leaving the office for lunch. The idea is that it gives employees a break. Leaving for an hour recharges the batteries. It lessens stress levels, which increases productivity.
However, going out to lunch can cause stress, too. Inclement weather or heavy traffic can impact the desire to go out for food. Geography can influence a lunch break, too — driving back and forth for a quick bite isn’t appealing if there aren't restaurants nearby.
For most, it comes down to time management. Very few people prefer to spend their break going to get their lunch instead of actually eating their lunch. It’s much easier to bring a meal from home or have lunch delivered.
With more remote workers returning to the office and those ubiquitous supply chain issues getting ironed out, more businesses are ramping up productivity, which can translate into more meetings. More meetings invariably mean the likelihood of lunch meetings skyrockets.
Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they had meetings during their lunch hour, and 45% stated they’d multi-task — eat while attending the meeting instead of skipping lunch entirely. Thankfully, only 7% said they felt comfortable eating on camera — 58% turn off the camera if they're eating and Zooming because they think eating during a meeting is rude, while 49% would prefer people not to watch them chow down.
Almost 49% of those surveyed said they didn’t mind scheduling a meeting during lunch, but not everyone is on board — 32% of Millennials and 33% of both Gen X and Gen Z workers thought it was rude to schedule a meeting during the lunch break. Women take more offense to lunch meetings — 36% say lunch meetings are rude compared to 28% of men.
Eating at the desk has other benefits
Putting aside lunchtime meetings, eating at your desk can be beneficial. Staying in saves money — 58% of Gen Z respondents prefer to bring their lunch from home because it’s cheaper. Desk dining also means less wear and tear on a car and saves gas, which reduces emissions and fossil fuel use — a double bonus for the environment and your wallet!
Desk lunches are also healthier. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents felt that making their own lunch allowed them to make intelligent food choices. For office workers who follow a specific diet like Keto or Weight Watchers, making their meals was more manageable than attempting to customize a lunch order or paying for ingredients they wouldn't eat. The same applies to people with food allergies or gluten sensitivity.
Reasons you might not enjoy eating at your desk every day
As much as eating at a desk can be rewarding, it can be frustrating, too. Having to remind people that this is your break time can wreck an otherwise nice meal. Setting lunchtime boundaries is a must when you're desk-dining. Otherwise, your co-workers might interrupt or, even worse, ask to share your PB&J!
Fending off work requests or hungry co-workers so you can eat your lunch in peace can be mentally exhausting, so setting firm boundaries is vital.
Eating lunch at the desk etiquette
If eating at a desk instead of a breakroom or public plaza, there are a few guidelines to create an enjoyable experience.
- Block off time in your calendar for lunch.
- Close the office door for lunch (if there is one)
- Don’t bring in pungent food; skip any food that might smell up the office.
- Use table manners.
- Clean up after yourself. Wipe down the desk area, and if there’s a breakroom, dispose of food garbage in the bin there.
More and more employees are eating at their desks, which can be good if it means a shorter workday or more productivity. Eating at your desk can also save you money on food. Instead of spending money on a meal, that money could go toward savings, a big-ticket purchase, or a vacation. It’s also healthier. Whether someone has food sensitivities, health issues, or is dieting, creating a meal from home fits each person’s dietary restrictions.
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