One workplace trend whose popularity varies from person to person is eating lunch at your desk. Should you eat lunch at your desk? In general the answer is no. Allowing yourself the chance to take a break and the chance to decompress is important during your work day. But, here are three scenarios where eating lunch at your desk is appropriate.
1. You Set Work Aside: If you’re able to eat at your desk, set work aside, and focus on something else like reading a book or watching one of your favorite shows then you have a good excuse to eat at your desk. Still, it’s better if you get some time away from your desk during your lunch break so try to add in a short walk to get some space from your workspace.
2. You Socialize With Coworkers Who Work Nearby: Maybe your office doesn’t have a great place for everyone to eat so you eat at your desk because your coworkers do. If that’s where everyone is socializing, it’s fine to eat at your desk too. Just fight the temptation to use all of your allotted lunch break time for work.
3. You Temporarily Work Through Lunch Due to an Impending Deadline: Working through lunch on a regular basis will put you on the fast track for burnout. But, if you have an impending deadline or you’re temporarily feeling overloaded at work, you can work through lunch and eat at your desk a few times, just make sure it doesn’t become a habit.
Don’t let this convince you to eat lunch at your desk every day. Just because some reasons for eating lunch at your desk are acceptable doesn’t mean they all are. Here are 10 common reasons you shouldn’t eat lunch at your desk, especially not on a regular basis.
1. You’re Not a Fan of Taking Breaks: Some people claim that they’re not fans of taking breaks. They’d rather keep working, keep going, and push through. These are often the same people who show up early, stay late, and think they’re secure in their position simply because of the amount of time they put in, rather than the quality of work or value they contribute. Taking breaks is vital if you want to optimize productivity, prevent burnout, and contribute your best work. Not being a fan of taking breaks isn’t a good enough excuse to continue eating lunch at your desk.
2. Trying to Look Busy: For employees with micromanagers or people who are worried they’ll look less dedicated if they don’t work through lunch, eating at their desk feels like the only option. You shouldn’t be chained to your desk during your lunch break just because you’re trying to look busy! Focus on taking the restorative breaks you need to come back and be your most productive self.
3. Worried You’ll be Late: A lot of people eat at their desks because they’re worried they won’t have time to eat elsewhere and get back on time. But, just because you won’t have time to leave the office, doesn’t mean you have to eat at your desk! Get your food delivered or bring it with you and find a place in the office or outside where you can eat and take a break from your work.
4. Nowhere Else to Eat: Some workplaces don’t provide a good break room or area for meals, which leaves people feeling like they have nowhere else to eat but their desks. But, if there’s a park nearby, a café where you can bring your food and buy a drink, or even a communal desk you and your coworkers can gather at to eat together you’ll get the restorative lunch break you need even if there isn’t a designated office space for it.
5. Unprepared for Lunch: If you’re not thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch until it’s time to actually go to lunch, you’re doing something wrong. Just like having a plan and a to do list improves your productivity when you’re working, having a plan and a lunch checklist will help you streamline the process so it takes less time and you won’t be chained to your desk. Whether this means taking the time to meal plan and prepare lunches for the week on your weekends or having a set restaurant for each day of the week or ordering your food to be delivered to the office by a specific time you’ll feel less chained to your desk when you’re properly prepared for lunch.
6. You Want to Stream or Use the Internet: If you don’t have a laptop of your own or a smartphone, you may be justified in staying at your desk to eat lunch so you can stream your favorite shows or use the internet to read or socialize. But, let’s face it, most people have one or the other. If this is what you prefer to do at lunch get yourself a great pair of headphones, come prepared with your devices, and find a quiet spot away from your desk where you can eat and enjoy your other favorite lunch activities.
7. Get Home Faster: Some people think that, if they work through lunch, they’ll get home faster. If your company lets you leave earlier when you reduce your lunch hour, try a different method. Instead of eating at your desk and powering through lunch, take a short 10-minute break to walk around and another 10-minute break to eat your lunch without the distraction of work. You’ll be able to eat quicker, have a shortened lunch, get the benefits of a lunch break, and still get home earlier.
8. Thinking of Lunch Breaks As Time for Food Only: When a lot of people think of their lunch breaks, they’re stuck in the mindset that this time can only be used for scarfing down food or chatting with coworkers. While those are lunch break staples, they’re not the only option! Go for a walk, workout at a nearby gym, run an errand so you won’t have to do it after work, go back home and see your dog, whatever! Limiting your thinking is preventing you from having a lunch break that’s enjoyable and restorative.
9. Missing Out on Time to Get Stuff Done: Some people feel like, if they leave their desk during their lunch break and do something else, they’re missing out on time to get stuff done. But, the fact of the matter is, you’ll be able to get stuff done with a clearer head, better focus, and more attentiveness if you use your lunch break as an actual break and come back from it refreshed.
10. Your Food Doesn’t Fit In: For a lot of people with specific diets or a penchant for home cooking, eating at your desk is easier than eating with your coworkers because they all get food from the same place and your food doesn’t fit in. Don’t let your food shyness get in the way of a great, social lunch break in the conference room with your coworkers! Join them, bring your food that doesn’t if in, and soon your hang-ups will disappear because it will be the normal thing to do.
In general, taking time to step away from your desk for lunch is incredibly beneficial. More often than not, the reasons people use to eat lunch at their desk don’t outweigh the benefit of taking a proper break, taking a step away, and decompressing.