There are lots of reasons why you might be in the habit of eating at your desk. Maybe your workday is jam-packed full of meetings, and lunch time is the only part of your day you feel you can “catch up” on emails. Maybe you’re working on a deadline, and you feel like typing with one hand and eating a salad with the other is the only way the work will get done in time. Maybe you just don’t like getting up from your comfy, comfy office chair.
All those reasons are nonsense. Here’s why.
1. Humans Weren’t Meant to Sit All Day
Despite the recent fear mongering about how sitting all day is literally killing us (yes, literally), you really do need to get up and walk around for a bit each day. You can keep your muscles and your mind fit by just getting up and stretching, doing some office yoga, or just taking a few trips up and down the stairwell instead of sitting on your butt all day long. Your spine and your brain will benefit from a little movement, really.
2. You’re Actually Lowering Your Productivity
Creativity is what’s being starved when you choose to eat at your desk, day after day. In a 2015 NPR article, Professor Kimberly Elsbach of the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management noted, “We know that creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to a nature-like environment, to a natural environment.”
“So staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It’s also detrimental to doing that rumination that’s needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment,” she said.
Try getting up and walking out that door at lunch. Walk to a park or even just around the building a few times. Meet up with a friend, even if you dislike all of your coworkers. Have a bit of fresh air and change of scenery be your appetizer for lunch. You’ll go back to work feeling pretty awesome.
3. That Keyboard Is Getting Nasty
Seriously, that hand with all the hummus on it? It’s going to leave traces all over your keyboard. Eating at your desk not only can create a mess, but also those bits of ham are going to breed some nasty bacteria when they’re left in perpetuity in the crevice around your space bar. To put it in gross perspective, it’s getting nastier than a toilet seat, according to one recent study.
Eating at your desk might seem like a time-saver, but it could impact your health and your career.
4. You Need to Socialize
You need to talk to other human beings just to feel normal, but being social at work benefits you in a whole bunch of other ways, too. First, networking. Yes, you may work in a small office with no hope of advancement, but even Dunder Mifflin had a bunch of interesting people working together who could teach each other a thing or two (like sweet dance moves). We need to connect with people, and your workmates aren’t all ogres — unless you work at some kind of monster factory, and even then, I bet they’re interesting monsters. Try to get out of your comfort zone and engage in a little small talk over your potato salad. Even a bit of conversation can give you insights on the workplace, jobs related to your own, and maybe a bit of the human condition.
Companies Can Make It Easier
Recently, Canadian-based company CBRE Ltd. made a new company policy that banned eating at your desk. The result? Employees felt more productive throughout their work day. The policy also came with a “clean desk” mandate, that meant employees had to clear extra papers and bits of this and that off of their desk at the end of each day. As a part of the company’s efforts to be International WELL Building Institute certified, they went to the extreme of banning lunchtime desk sitting, but it was all a part of creating a healthy environment for its workers. The certification requires employers to encourage staff to socialize at seating in break or lunch rooms that accommodate at least 25 percent of staff. The certification also includes adjustable standing desks, plenty of natural light, noise cancellation systems, and fresh filtered water systems.
Whatever your reason for getting up out of that chair come lunchtime, it’s important to make it a part of your daily routine, not just a one-and-done experience. Try it today…and keep trying the day after that.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you stopped eating at your desk for these (or other) reasons? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.