It may have a flat surface and accommodate a chair, but a desk is no place for a meal.
A desk has expectations of you. A desk demands deadlines, commands your full attention. A desk holds a singular intended function; it is a work performance theater. Eating at your desk doesn’t just disrupt the sanctity of your theater; it’s also disturbs your body and mind:
1. Toilet Munchies
When you eat and work simultaneously, chances are you’re focusing more on your work than your food (because you’re such a phenomenal and dedicated employee). This makes overeating a major possibility, according to the Harvard Health Blog. Plus focusing on work causes your body to divert blood away from your digestive system towards your brain and heart; leading to issues like bloating, indigestion, and heart burn.
When you’re not absent mindedly ingesting your lunch, you’re forgetting that it’s sitting next to you. And as food reaches room temperature, bacteria begins to multiply. But bacteria doesn’t stop there, your desk is super germy. According to Charles Gerba, PhD, professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, “The desk, in terms of bacteria, is 400 times more dirty than your toilet.”
2. Brain Break, Brain Boost.
At your desk, you’re using a lot of mental energy to focus, perform, and control behavior and movement. People often forget that your brain alone uses 20% of your daily calories. Add intense thinking processes and sprinkle it with a little stress and the number can fluctuate. Not only do you need to replenish those calories, but you need to give your brain a break after exerting all that energy.
A difficult act to initiate as you gaze at your looming tower of tasks. But according to the New York Times, taking time to relax actually increases productivity.
3. Lunch Legislation
While there is no federal law requiring employers to give their workers breaks, 20 states have laws governing meal breaks (CA, CO, DE, IL, KY, ME, MA, MN, NE, NV, NH, NY, ND, OR, RI, TN, VT, WA, WV). However, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act sets guidelines for employers who decide to give their employees breaks. For “short breaks” (<30 minutes) breaks must be paid. For “longer breaks” (>30 minutes) employers do not have to pay employees. Combined with your local restrictions, when you work through your “short break” you at the very least are sacrificing paid time to relax. When you work through your “longer break” you are at the very least working for free.
You also put your employer at legal risk. Employers often have to pay fines if their employees don’t follow break guidelines. If your employer is forcing you to skip breaks that are required in your state, talk to your staffing representative in your local office right away or with the HR department of Roth Staffing Companies.
4. Break Culture
According to various studies, researchers found that only one in five employees take an actual lunch: 39% of employees say they eat lunch at their desk, while 28% report seldom taking any break whatsoever. It’s hard to be the only one dedicating time to lunch when your team is dedicated to staying at their desk. Do not let this define the future of your work space. Become a lunch time revolutionary and a warrior for better workplace culture. Use lunch breaks to spend time together as a team.
Workplace relationships have shown to be very beneficial. According to New York Magazine, workplace friendships yield more productive employees. And Gallup research found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.
Would you truly sacrifice the opportunity to be more productive, more relaxed, treat your body better, and invigorate your team just to sit at your desk for an extra 30 minutes or so? There will be times when deadlines overshadow your lunch break, or you want to work through in an attempt to leave earlier for a special occasion. There will be times when you want to utilize the opportunity to exercise or run errands. But eating lunch at your desk every single day may be doing more harm than good. Meals are intended to be savored, and you deserve the benefits of enjoying your meal.