February is both National Hot Breakfast Month and National Snack Food Month, not to mention Canned Food Month, Cherry Month, Grapefruit Month, American Pie Month and, Macadamia Nut Month. With the added foodie temptation of Pancake Day and all those Valentine’s Day Chocolates doing the rounds, food will be on everyone’s mind in your workplace this month. With all of these yummy reasons to celebrate we got to thinking – what are the rules for eating at work? Sure, you know you should keep any king-size feasts to your lunch hour but what about a few nibbles here and there? Is a working lunch a good idea? What’s the etiquette for using the office microwave? Look no further that Earl Street Employment to guide you through the ins and outs of keeping those hunger pangs at bay!
More and more people are choosing to eat on the job, to bite into their sandwiches and snacks with one hand on the keyboard, and the working lunch has become a norm in many industries. However, just because this gastronomic multitasking is becoming less than unusual doesn’t mean that everyone knows the do’s and don’ts of workplace nibbling. Complaints against messy and noisy eaters were some of the most common workplace peeves in a recent survey commissioned by Samsung and these distractions contributed to staff losing up to 22 minutes of their day. Therefore, eating in the workplace is a serious issue that can massively impact the productivity of your whole organisation. The question is, how do you get it right?
Before you start gobbling down a full roast ask if people mind
Find out about the proper time and place for eating at your workplace and don’t just throw caution to the wind and start eating without checking it’s okay first. If you haven’t managed to grab a bite to eat before arriving in the office then manically munching on a cereal bar can make you look ill-prepared and is hardly the best start to the day. You wouldn’t start your blow drying your hair at your desk so it’s probably not a good idea to start tucking in to your breakfast unannounced. Imagine if you turned up without brushing your hair – breakfast is just as much a part of your pre-work routine and should be finished before you drop into your swivel chair.
However, some companies provide free breakfast and even encourage you to have your first meal at your desk as an incentive. These easiest way to figure out the office culture is to simply to ask. Just because no one else has a snack drawer at their desk doesn’t necessarily mean that eating on the go is a faux pas. It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone is okay with your working lunch or breakfast in case anyone has any allergies. If someone has a severe allergy then your peanut sandwich could completely ruin their day. Have good manners and make sure to consider the comfort of your workmates.
Don’t leave the kitchen like a war zone, and nobody likes sticky keyboards
If your workspace looks like an all-you-can-eat buffet then you are probably going to raise some eyebrows. When it comes to eating on the job you have to keep it clean, especially if you are sharing a desk or other people use your computer. If the “m” key on your keyboard is half stuck down with honey and sriracha sauce then anyone else using your desk will be less than happy. You lunch hour should end with the hour, not linger on mouldering on your desktop for the next week!
If you are a very messy eater it can be a good idea to bring some wet wipes to keep your work area to a professional standard. If your workplace has a kitchen then we recommend that you take the same policy of cleanliness. Don’t leave half your sandwich on the worktops and wash your dishes! Finally, don’t be the person to leave a tuna pasta pot in the back of the fridge for months – no one wants to be remembered as the guy who got the kitchen fumigated or started that insect infestation.
One word is all we need to title this section. If you follow the advice from our last paragraph and keep everything clean then keeping everything fresh shouldn’t be too much of a problem. however, there are some lunchtime treats your should avoid altogether. Curries, garlicky Chinese takeouts and microwave popcorn are some repeat offenders when it comes to ill-advised office eats. Everyone wants to be remembered when they leave a room but not many people want to be forever associated with the rancid scent of re-heated mackerel. If you really have to eat blue cheese on the clock then open a window to air the place out. But never, I repeat, never reheat fish at work unless you want to be the most hated person in the office.
Find out if there is somewhere to eat – that way it’s just you who is enjoying the wholesome scent of your leftover curry, not the whole office
If there is a break room, a kitchen or an outdoor space then it might be better to use those spaces rather than your desk as an impromptu dining table. Organise your work so that any jobs that can be completed away from your desk are scheduled for during your lunch hour. Then you can get on with your tasks in the break room if you are falling behind targets. Don’t talk on the phone though, it’s pretty unprofessional to try and close a deal with your mouth full! However, don’t hide in the photocopier room to eat like a little gremlin – ask your work colleagues what they do about lunch.
If you are going to take a working lunch then make sure you are working!
You have gone to the effort of staying at your desk so don’t expect to be left in peace and quiet. Resign yourself to the fact that your boss and coworkers will probably interrupt you every few minutes about that spreadsheet you promised them last week! If you are physically in the office then people will assume that you are there to work so try not to distract the rest of the office with an overly festive luncheon. If everyone else is trying to get on with their work then you should try to eat quietly – no burping, open mouth chewing or lip smacking!
Generally, if you are going to try out eating at your desk then it is important to treat your colleagues with dignity and respect. Consider whether you really have to warm up garlic and stilton sauce every lunchtime and whether it’s better for everyone if you open a window. Another important point on food etiquette, from a recruitment perspective, is that eating strong flavoured foods before an interview (whether you are the interviewer or interviewee) is rarely a good idea. It is hard to make a good first impression if the person on the other side of the desk is trying to breathe through a cloud of pickled egg fumes. Check out some more interview tips here.