Eating at desks – is it a good idea?

12 May 2017

Your office policies are your decision. There’s nothing stopping you from banning employees from eating at their desk, but there are a few things you might want to consider before imposing this.

First things first, ask yourself why you want to stop your employees from eating at their desk. If it’s to ensure they’re taking proper breaks, then great! It might not be such a wise idea if it’s for fear of interrupting productivity, though.

Here are our suggestions on what to consider when approaching the idea of lunch at desks.

  1. Food spillage

Ironically, as I’m writing this, I’m eating a rather ripe pear and it’s dripping over my desk – which is exactly why some employers are against it. Eating food at a desk will inevitably end in crumbs and drops dirtying the work area.

While some employees will courteously clean up after themselves, others might not. You then run the risk of an unhygienic working environment which may not only appear unprofessional, but require additional labour in the form of cleaners. Worst case, left over scraps could even attract mice and insects which opens your office area up to another level of hygiene problems.

  1. Unwanted odours and sounds

The crunching of crackers. The smell of tuna. Not something every employee will want to endure while typing away at their keyboard.

Out of consideration to the rest of the department, some employers put an eating-at-desk ban in place to prevent others from feeling uncomfortable.

  1. Encourage breaks

Regular breaks are important to minimise the risk of muscular and skeletal problems that can be caused by sitting in the same position for prolonged periods of time. By banning eating at the desk, some employers hope to encourage regular breaks as employees are forced to take a stroll to have a nibble.

  1. Poor perception

There’s always a divide. Some employees tidy up crumbs, rubbish and tupperware right away, but others leave it lying around until the end of the day (guilty as charged!). Some employers operating client or public-facing businesses might not want to run the risk of having an untidy premise on show.

Office impact

Before you think about imposing an eating-at-desk ban, let’s take a look at some of the potential downfalls – they might just make you think twice.

Pushing break boundaries

If you’re encouraging employees to get up and go to a designated area to have a snack, take care in ensuring that employees don’t push the boundaries. Some members of staff might see this as an opportunity to have a natter, shave a few minutes off their working day or avoid their role’s responsibilities.

Go hungry instead

There’s little you can do about this one, but if they don’t have food handy, some employees may choose to simply go without. This might be because they feel they simply don’t have time to stray from their desk to get food, or perhaps because of pure laziness!

Disgruntled

If employees don’t understand or accept your reasons for imposing a food ban at their desk, they may become disgruntled and agitated by it. Unhappy staff are never good for your business, so this is something you’ll want to avoid.

Alternatives

If you’re not a fan of banning eating at desks completely, but you do want to eradicate some of the reasons for considering it, don’t despair – there are alternatives.

  1. Clean-up policy

Communicate a clean-up policy whereby you make it clear that each employee is responsible for tidying up their work station and the floor around it.

  1. Put a cap on hot food

Hot food is more odorous than cold food. To reduce the presence of any unwanted, potent smells in the office, you could simply ask that employees refrain from eating hot food at their desk.

  1. Drink spillage

To avoid any damaging spillages to office equipment, you could kindly request that employees drink from bottles and flasks that come with a lid.

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