IN FOR LUNCH
Goodbye power lunch. Hello desktop dining. More than 75 percent of office workers eat at their desks at least two to three times a week, according to a recent survey from the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
Robin Jay, author of “The Art of the Business Lunch” (Career Press 2006), isn’t too happy about that statistic. “Eight hours is a long time to sit at your desk. You need to recharge. Refresh. Interact with others. Lunch is a great opportunity to share ideas and boost creativity,” she says. “I would so much rather do business with someone over a table than over a desk.”
There are many reasons why workers eat at their desks — being too busy, using lunchtime to run errands or just having a short lunch break. But to those who think that eating at their desks sends a message about being devoted to their jobs, Jay points out that could backfire. “The perception could be that those workers are in over their heads or that they lack organization.”
In workplaces where the boss likes to see employees “chained to their desks,” Jay suggests alternatives such as meeting people for breakfast or “even taking 20 minutes to meet with an associate away from your desk. Expanding your network benefits you in the long run. You’ll know more people when the day comes to quit that job because your boss won’t let you leave your desk at lunchtime!”
For anyone who wants to change the corporate culture of eating at desks, they might want to share a discovery made by Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona: The average desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than an average toilet seat. That’s not good news considering that the ADA survey showed that some people also eat breakfast or dinner at their desks.
In addition to the “ick” factor, registered dietitian Lona Sandon says, “That means they are having more meals at their desks than they are in their own homes. America, we have a problem.”
At the very least, ensure that workspaces offer refrigerators, Sandon recommends, referring to statistics showing that 30 percent of brown baggers are not even refrigerating their meals once they get to the office. “That turkey-and-cheese sandwich is becoming a nice little bacteria petri dish. That makes me squirm,” she says.
Limiting desk dining has other benefits. It cuts down on smells and may cut down on calories. Sandon says eating while multitasking means, “People will eat more or not make good food choices, like mindlessly eating that bag of chips.”
The bottom line, Jay says, is that eating at your desk can be “disgusting. Anyone who has gotten noodles on their keyboard knows it’s a bad idea.”