Eating at Your Desk is “Disgusting” – But What’s the Alternative?

Eating 'al desco' is a popular and unhealthy habit. So why are so many of us doing it - and how can business centres help?

Many of us are guilty of eating ‘al desco’. It’s not just a drain on productivity, it’s also an unhealthy habit that can trigger sickness in the workplace. So how can business centre operators encourage their team – and their clients – to take a break?

Hands up who’s guilty of this one. Crumbs in the keyboard, sticky fingers on the mouse and no real lunch break. The chances are, most people reading this article eat lunch or snacks at their desk. Maybe you’re doing it right now?

It’s no wonder UK government health minister, Anna Soubry, has branded this practice as “disgusting”. Business centres in particular, which are filled with go-get-em business owners and hardworking start-ups, are a prime place for al desco lunches.

If that’s you, take a bite out of this: Recent stats show that nearly two thirds of workers eat their lunch at their desk every day. Many even admit to feeling “guilty” for leaving the office for their lunch hour – despite the fact that a high number of workers are no longer paid for lunch breaks.

It’s testament to today’s workaholic office culture that many of us choose to work through lunch in order to crack on with our workloads. But while we might knock something off the to-do list, we could be hurting our health as we do it.

Dr Ron Cutler, a microbiologist at Queen Mary University of London, says that crumbs and food waste which slip between the keys or hide on your desk creates a “perfect environment” for germs and bacteria to thrive. “The more people who share office equipment or desks, the greater the risk of catching a bug,” he added.

“Strategic downtime”

Lack of breaks can harm productivity too. Former Wall Street trader Frank Partnoy says that it doesn’t do anyone any good to “burrow into work” all day.

“If we don’t come up for air during the day, we will have a hard time thinking strategically or putting our daily tasks into broader context,” he said. “By taking a lunch break, we can think outside the box,” he said, adding that downtime is seen by many senior leaders as “strategic”.

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    Lunch breaks exist to give workers time away from work. In an ideal world, you should use it as a chance to get outside for some fresh air and to stretch your legs. Even better, do some exercise and get that heart rate pumping. Afterwards, you’ll come back to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to blast through the afternoon.

    Business centres: Do your bit

    Business centres can do their bit to encourage staff – and clients – to take regular breaks and proper lunch breaks during the day.

    Providing break-out areas with seating and appropriate furniture is an ideal way to encourage lunch breaks. It’s a key selling point too. It can get your clients mingling, which leads to better workplace communities and even networking opportunities, and your clients will be thankful that they have somewhere to take a break – particularly during bad weather.

    Kitchen areas are another plus point, and business centres often win brownie points by providing clean, well-equipped kitchen facilities for clients’ and employees’ use. Consider stocking the fridge and cupboards, and choosing quality tea and coffee too – this can go a long way towards cementing your relationship with your clients, and even winning new business. You could go one step further by providing branded coffee mugs. This is a great way to catch the eye of clients’ visitors during meetings.

    Another great selling point is a fitness centre. Not every workplace has the opportunity to install a gym, but those that do mark up plenty of bonus points. If you don’t have the space, consider partnering with a local fitness centre and offering discounts to staff and clients.

    Whatever your level of commitment, remember that we don’t live by bread alone – and eating ‘al desco’ is an unhealthy habit that can put a drain on productivity and motivation, not to mention boosting stress levels and even sickness. The more your business centre can do to combat unhealthy habits, the more you will create the type of workplace that prospective clients want to be part of. The proof is in the pudding – and a healthy workplace is a happy workplace.

    Are you guilty of eating at your desk? What do you do to combat unhealthy habits in the workplace?

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