Dining Al Desko

Sharon Koehler

Stone Industry Consultant

The old black and white movies are full of business people in suits and dresses having the leisurely two- and three-martini lunch, and then going back to work. Sometimes they were executives entertaining clients. Sometimes they were regular folks just wanting to get out of the office for a while. Those sort of lunches, for various reasons, gave way to a shorter, more formal “lunch hour” in a sit-down restaurant with waiters and actual silverware. 

Fast forward to “newer times,” when the lunch hour is spent running errands like picking up dry cleaning or prescriptions, and possibly a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Then “lunch hour” became driving through a fast food joint while you run some errands. And all that has now evolved to eating lunch at your desk.

Eat at your desk?  A waterproof keyboard is highly recommended.

Eat at your desk?  A waterproof keyboard is highly recommended. 

In an effort to eat healthier or to save money or to save gas and wear and tear on our vehicles – or to get more accomplished in our busy day – we are now using our desks as a destination for lunch. A recent Gallop survey shows that 67 percent of Americans eat lunch at their desk more than once a week. I do several times a week (unless I have to go out and run some errands).

The thing is, eating lunch at your desk is really not good for you or your work. Snacking or eating alone at your desk can lead to increased calorie intake. People usually eat a greater amount of food when they eat with others, but those meals are usually more balanced. We tend to snack more or eat a bit less healthy alone at our desks, since there is no one with us to judge us or to keep us from eating that sinful desert. Those extra calories can lead to weight gain.

Eating at your desk also makes you more sedentary. Approximately 86 percent of American workers have desk jobs and spend the majority of their day sitting down. Use your lunch break to get up and move, get the blood flowing.  A change of scenery is good for you. It makes you more alert. Getting up and being active gives your brain and eyes a break. This mid-day activity also helps relive the afternoon “slump” that happens between 2 and 3 p.m. . There is nothing that says you can’t grab a chair and eat that sandwich and chips outside. (If you go out and run errands, try not to run through the fast food joint.)

Clorox® has coined a new term for this potential keyboard mess… Board-‘oeuvres.

Clorox® has coined a new term for this potential keyboard mess… Board-‘oeuvres.

If there is no way around it and you must eat a meal or two at your desk, there are some “Desk Etiquette” tips you should be aware of.

  1. Don’t eat stinky food in the office! Pungent smells can spread through an office quicker than gossip, and can be an issue for your co–workers. Example: I tend to eat at my desk several times a week, but I only bring tuna on Thursday, because my office mate, due to her schedule, is usually out of the office on Thursday. If someone routinely brings offensive smelling food, just talk to them. Most issues can be resolved with a simple conversation. For example, I once had  an office worker in my area who drank a lot of coffee, and I mean a lot. I hate coffee. I don’t like the taste or the smell. Every time he walked by my desk with his cup of joe I wanted to hurl. So, we had a conversation and reached a compromise. He changed to drinking his coffee out of a cup with a lid on it. He drinks all the coffee he wants and people around him don’t have to suffer. Problem solved.

  2. If possible, time your meal to normal lunch hour times. If everyone else is out to lunch or even eating at their desk as well, you are less likely to distract your office mates with your desk meal. Plus, if you eat when they eat, they are also less likely to distract you.

  3. Be prepared for interruptions. When people see you at your desk they assume you are working and may try to start a conversation or ask you to do extra things.  How you handle that is up to you, and depends on your office environment.

  4. Turn your phone off. You are “out to lunch.” You don’t want to answer the phone with a mouth full of food, so why let your phone ring and disturb other people?  Just remember to turn it back on, later.

  5. Chew slowly. Not only does this help prevent you from overeating, it is also less annoying to your co- workers. Loud eating or crunching food is on the Top 10 Most Irritating Co-Worker Habits list.

  6. Don’t dump your leftovers in your office trashcan. Food that doesn’t start out as stinky can become stinky quickly when left to rot in a trashcan – especially if the trashcan is not emptied on a daily basis. 

For your own well-being, please know that your desk can harbor 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet. Your keyboard is the biggest offender. If you tend to dine al desko frequently, for your own health, clean and disinfect your desk more often, especially your keyboard.
Your keyboard is full of little cracks and crevices that can catch crumbs and promote the growth of germs, bacteria and mold. (Yuck!) 

One good way to fight this is to blow out your keyboard with canned air. Another good way is to get a waterproof keyboard. (I have one, and highly recommend it.) There are far fewer cracks and crevices to promote the growth of anything, plus after you blow it out with air, you can hit it with a disinfectant.

It is generally better for your health for you to not eat at your desk, but if you must, then be a wise and courteous desk diner. Your co-workers will appreciate it, and so will you. 


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