Did you eat lunch at your desk today? While staring at your phone or computer? Whether you're on a budget, a diet, or just like your own food better than the nearest sandwich joint, there are lots of good reasons for bringing your own lunch to work. But while there are benefits, it's important to keep in mind that your food choices can also impact your colleagues. Here are a few do's and don’ts to keep in mind to help make sure your next desk lunch isn't a kitchen nightmare for your coworkers.
Take time before work to pull something together. It’s much easier to eat a healthy meal when you plan ahead for it, and it cuts down the cost of eating out for lunch. If you’re stumped on what to make, or simply feel like you have nothing in the fridge, look up some recipes online. When in a rush, throw together a bed of greens (the darker the leaves, the more nutritious they are), and add any salad toppings you might have, such as fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, small serving of cheese, walnuts, etc. Get creative and don’t be afraid to try new things. And don’t forget: although simple can get boring, it can easily be changed into something new with just a few tweaks.
Sometimes you just need to stay at the office during lunch because work gets hectic and there are deadlines approaching. This isn’t every day, however. When busy, do what needs to be done, but try not to make a habit of eating just at your desk. Venture out to the communal kitchen, invite a friend to get out of the office and find a park or even just a nice bench to sit on for a change of scenery. Breaking up the workday like this can make it go by faster, help you to clear your head and reduce stress, and will make work more enjoyable.
Food can get messy, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. It may seem like a no-brainer, but a sloppy clean up can be annoying for coworkers, your boss, and the janitor. So, once you’re done with lunch, pack up what you want to save, throw away the trash, and wipe away all the crumbs and sauce spills into a napkin and throw it away. Everyone around you will be grateful, especially for not attracting more bugs into the office.
Talk and chew.
No one can do this effectively. If out to lunch, the natural ebbs and flows of in-person conversation accommodate time to chew and then speak without a full mouth of food. While on the phone, this changes greatly, so hold off on making or taking phone calls while you're eating. Even if the person on the other end of the call knows you're eating, a muffled voice, chewing noises, or unnecessary pauses can be annoying, or construed as disrespectful. Wait until you are finished, and then get back to anyone you may need to.
What smells divine to you may be stinky to someone else. Be wary of your eating habits and understanding of sensitivity, cultural differences, and allergies. When it comes to heating things at the office, never microwave fish because the scent carries and lingers for hours on end. There are many other foods whose smell carries longer distances than others, but most of the reheating decisions are left discretionary to the office culture you work in. A good general rule of thumb is to remember that hot food generally has a stronger smell than cold food.
Stare at screens.
We tend to eat mindlessly when we’re preoccupied by emails, articles, or chats with friends, and it’s easy to overeat without realizing it. To avoid this, take your eyes off the screen. Try to be conscious of each bite you take, glance away from the screen periodically, and opt for focusing on the food in front of you rather than just continuing to work as before.
Food is best when it’s enjoyed with company. Eating lunch in the office is a great way to engage with others without having to carve out larger chunks of your day, and it provides a great chance to build office culture. If chatting with coworkers is disruptive to others around you, minimize the chatter by going into the kitchen. Most of all, take advantage of the break lunch provides, relax for a few minutes, and enjoy your meal.
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