Eating lunch is an important part of any professional's day. It is not only necessary to keep healthy but it guarantees you have enough energy to remain productive for the rest of the afternoon. According to a 2017 survey by Tork, it also increases how much a person loves their job, especially among Canadians. Still, many people, including IT contractors, get sucked into a project and completely lose track of time. Before you know it, it's almost time to go home and you haven't eaten anything since breakfast. One way around skipping lunch is to bring your own mid-day meal. When you do suddenly bring your head-up from your computer and realize it's time to eat, you aren't burdened with the time it takes to leave the office, order your food, wait for it to be ready, eat and come back. On top of the time you save, eating lunch at the office is often a healthier diet choice and will also save you money. It seems, nothing is simple today, though, and bringing your own lunch leaves you with more considerations.
Eating Lunch at Your Desk
Whether you work from a home office or a client site, there are multiple options where you might choose to eat it. A lunchroom, a cafeteria, or outside are all stress-free, neutral environments. However, many of us stick with eating at our desk so we can continue to work, ignoring the many studies and experts advising against it for both health and productivity reasons. Continual sitting is bad for your health, whereas moving around, socializing and getting sunshine are all proven to be good for your mental and physical health. Moreover, productivity experts will tell you that multi-tasking does not increase productivity (but actually reduces it) and taking time to relax does increase your productivity. Even if you're not "working" while eating at your desk, just being present is a pass for clients and colleagues to interrupt your break and take away from that important relaxation time. Independent contractors have another dilemma when they mix lunch breaks and work -- how will you bill? Because you're eating, your client is not getting 100% of your time and will not appreciate being asked to pay for it. For more tips on this topic, check out this article about how IT contractors can take better breaks.
Etiquette of Eating in the Office
When you bring your own lunch to the office, should you choose to eat at your desk or somewhere else, there remains etiquette to be followed. At a minimum, follow the same rules you were taught by your parents -- don't chew loudly, slurp your drinks, or eat food that falls on the floor. There are also some codes of conduct that are unique to office settings:
Don't hog resources. It is inconsiderate to take up excessive amounts of fridge space and if your meal requires 10 minutes to heat up in the microwave, prepare it during off-peak hours.
Speaking of off-peak hours, if you do decide to eat at a time when most others are working, be respectful and minimize distractions. Be extra quiet while preparing, eating and cleaning up after yourself.
That's right, you must clean up after yourself. That includes inside the microwave after an explosion or the fridge after a spill, to avoid messes from getting old and smelly.
Smells are a controversial debate around many offices. This Monster article advises you stick with plain foods with few spices and avoid the common offenders such as onion, garlic, tuna and sardines. However, in this Kitchn post, etiquette expert Kirsten Schofield says you should eat what you want. Everything smells bad to somebody so don't fret too much.
In that same post from The Kitchn, Schofield also warns against judging or commenting on people's food choices at any level. "It's irrelevant, it's mean, and you can rapidly get into class/religion/ethnicity/gender/medical history stuff and hit a professional third rail," she says.
Are we over-thinking something as simple as eating lunch at work... maybe. But you can be certain that if we found this much information on the topic, clients, contractors and employees you work with will also find it relevant. What problems have you run into while eating lunch at the office?