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Office Eating Etiquette


The best practice for eating in the office might be: don’t. Here’s why.

It’s common for workers to drink beverages at their desks, for obvious reasons: hydration. It is easy to drink water, coffee, tea, or juice without making a mess around you, getting your hands sticky or smelling up the room.

Eating, however, poses a myriad of dangers.


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In our fast-paced culture, multitaskers might seem to get more done than the rest of us. The reality, however, is that multitaskers often do each thing less well than if they concentrated on doing one thing at a time. Eating is not something to do while working unless you like indigestion.

Take a break, focus on eating, then get back to work.

At Your Desk

Some company cultures allow people to snack at their desk, but it is inadvisable because it is messy and distracting.

Nobody wants to be told “your best customer is on line 2” after putting a huge bite of sandwich in his mouth. Worse, nobody wants to have the boss pop into the cubicle while he’s chewing a bunch of popcorn. 

Eating at your desk can be a major turn-off to a co-worker or worse, your boss. You might never hear about it, but it could end up contributing to your not getting promoted.

Some foods, such as peanuts, pose additional health risks to any co-workers who may be allergic. It is always polite to ask about allergies before bringing certain foods to work.

In the Breakroom

Jim Halpert on “The Office” got the nickname “Big Tuna” because he ate a tuna fish sandwich in the breakroom. As likeable a character as Halpert is, don’t be that guy. Here on PayScale, Alida Moore compiled a short list of offensive foods, even for the breakroom.

It might be better simply not to eat in the office. If you are ready to eat lunch, take a lunch break. If you need a snack, take ten minutes away. Leave the office. Sit outside, if possible.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think about eating in the office? Please share your thoughts and join the conversation on Twitter.

More From PayScale

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(Photo Credit: Sam Howzit/Flickr)

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