18 Reasons Why You Should Never Eat Lunch at Your Desk

Spilled Coffee And Office Worker Sitting On The Desk


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Desktop Dining No More

Whether back in the office or still working from home, many people often consume lunch at their desks. It’s easy and efficient, right? The practice can also have some unexpected side effects. Read on and you may find yourself re-thinking that time-saving way to eat your midday meal. Remember, it’s called a lunch break for a reason.

fast food in the office - eater reaction

1. It’s Inconsiderate

You’re in the middle of the office about to dig into your “aromatic” tuna sandwich, but do you really want to do that? Lynette Lealwalcott, a Florida-based professional etiquette consultant with The Swann School of Protocol, says a core value of etiquette is the consideration of others. “There is no way of telling how your lunch may affect your fellow co-workers. It could be the smell, allergies, or even the temptation for those on restricted diets. This lack of consideration could impact your workplace relationships.” 

Hands of business woman working on phone and eating healthy business lunch at workplace. Vegetables and fresh green salad in lunch box on working desk with laptop and other office supplies.
Inna Dodor/istockphoto

2. It Impacts Your Focus

Think you’re a multitasking wonder? Etiquette expert Lealwalcott suggests having lunch while working might prove otherwise. As she says, “Many mistakes can be made and tasks overlooked while you're trying to both focus on your lunch and work. Why not take the time to just enjoy your lunch so that you can focus on presenting your best self?”

Taking a short lunch break while working

3. It's Dirty

A clean, hygienic workspace has always been a priority, but the pandemic put it in the spotlight. As Lealwalcott says, “Given what we have experienced over the past couple of years, cleanliness is definitely a priority. The distraction of eating at your desk and working makes room for your workspace to not be as clean as it needs to be. It would be wise for yourself and for your coworkers to eat in a common area or outdoors.” 

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Spilled Coffee And Office Worker Sitting On The Desk

4. It Can Damage Equipment

Along those lines, dining at the desk can also lead to some unfortunate tech issues due to spills and crumbs. You never want to be the employee who calls the in-house help desk to say, “Um, I just spilled hot soup all over my keyboard.” 

Related: We Tried The Odistar Desktop Vacuum — Find Out How It Went

Woman eating a hamburger in modern fastfood cafe, lunch concept

5. It Creates a Bad First Impression

Depending on the nature of your business (and your office space), you may not know who could enter your personal workspace. “First impressions are critical to those that come to our business,” says Lealwalcott. “You may give off the wrong impression when someone walks in and catches you trying to catch the falling tomato from the burger in your mouth.”

Related: 25 Expert Tips for a Healthy Work-Life Balance While Working from Home

Woman entrepreneur at work in office.
Sad frustrated girls feeling heachache while preparing for exams in campus using laptop computers, unhappy antisocial women tired and bored during working process completing project before deadline

7. It Increases Stress

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? All work without a lunch break can also add to stress levels. As Fast Company has noted, a lunch break offers “a much-needed mental health break away from our computer screens.” 

businessman working overtime alone at his desk in an office late at night

8. It’s Isolating

A solo lunch at the desk can lead to feelings of isolation. Isolation, especially during the pandemic, has been a critical factor in increased cases of depression and problematic mental health. 

Frustrated young man feeling stressed calculating earnings or domestic expenses.

9. It Kills Imagination

Stepping away from your desk can increase productivity (you come back feeling refreshed) but it can also impact imagination and creativity. Much like travel sparks the mind, time away from the desk can change one’s perspective, allowing you to bring “fresh eyes” to a project.

Young businessman having unpleasent pizza lunch break at workplace

10. It Causes Indigestion

There’s no comparison between a lunch gobbled down at the desk and a leisurely midday meal, whether savored at a café, restaurant, or picnic table. Speed is often an integral element of eating at your desk, which is not the healthiest way to eat. As The HR Digest says, “Digestion and related problems can crop up if we do not eat properly.”

Woman having lunch break

11. It Ruins Zoom Calls

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial of the worker on the Zoom call who’s kicked back in his seat, gnawing away at pretzels while unaware that all those he’s meeting with can hear every loud crunch. Candace Smith, founding manager of Etiquette for the Business of Life, offers a succinct solution: “On a Zoom call, do not eat lunch!”

Upset female office worker reading unpleasant message

12. It Hampers Colleagues

We all think of our cubicles (or offices) as our own “territory.” Keep in mind the sounds from our space can distract colleagues, even if we’re unaware of it. Etiquette pro Smith says, “Don’t handle crinkly wrappings or munch on chips or other crunchy foods.” It’s especially important if someone is making a presentation nearby or in the midst of an important call.

workaholic Asian woman busy with working and eating sandwich in the same time at desk

13. It Shows Lack of Manners

Even when workers gather informally, perhaps eating at their own desks or at a communal table while a meeting is underway, they need to remain aware of where they are. As Smith says, “Though this type of business lunch is not fine dining, your good manners are called for.” No one wants to be known for being sloppy or talking with food in their mouth. “A working lunch, like any meal, is meant to nourish you and be enjoyed.  But at the same time, it is intended to make continuing doing business more convenient,” Smith says.

Business conversation in the office.

14. It Can Make You Sore

Lunch at your desk can impact mental and physical health. Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert from The Protocol School of Texas, says, “Taking a mental break is productive both emotionally and physically when you are behind a computer for a lengthy period of time. From lack of movement such as stiffness and sore joints to increased risk of heart disease, stepping away from your desk can benefit your physical well-being.”

Small group of happy colleagues in formal wear chatting and eating pizza together for lunch. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

15. It Impacts Social Skills

Getting to know colleagues is key to a successful work environment. As Gottsman says, “Socially, people benefit from positive relationships in the office with their coworkers and their team. Although many people are now working hybrid or virtually, there is value in getting to know people in your office if the situation presents itself. 

Going out for lunch with a coworker, or sitting in the office kitchen gives you an opportunity to clear your mind for a few minutes to get back to work refreshed and engaged. Even sharing a meal virtually is more inspirational if you are sitting in a place that is not your office desk. Think about sharing lunch at a park, a part of your house that is well-lit and has windows to look out or outside in your backyard.”

I won't be ordering from them again

16. It Leads to Unhealthy Choices

Eating at your desk can lead to overeating or making other unhealthy choices. As Gottsman says, “It’s easy to get distracted by your work when you don’t take a break. Mindlessly eating a bag of chips or a couple of cinnamon rolls instead of a healthy meal can affect your health and your healthy weight.”

Businesswoman having headache while eating salad on lunch break at work.
Drazen Zigic/istockphoto

17. It Can Nix Self-Improvement Opportunities

The time allowed for lunch can be used to an advantage, says Gottsman. “Take a yoga class or meditate at the park. If hanging out with coworkers is not your thing, do something that is good for you and will benefit your brain at the same time. A leisurely stroll down the street or a power walk is better than sitting behind a screen for lunch.”

Woman with stress headache, crisis and mental health problem, sad with depression and anxiety. Mockup house, confused or tired with brain fog, female person with worried face and burnout issues
Dean Mitchell/istockphoto

18. It Can Cause Brain Fog

Eating at your desk — especially in a typical office environment — can contribute to decreased blood oxygen levels and lead to feelings of brain fog. When you remain sedentary for prolonged periods, such as sitting in a desk, circulation can become sluggish, leading to less efficient oxygen delivery to vital organs, including the brain. 

Trying to focus on work while eating at the same time can also cause people to adopt shallow breathing patterns, which can reduce the amount of oxygen intake. To keep your brain feeling sharp and focused, consider taking short breaks from your desk every 20 minutes or so to walk around and get fresh blood pumping.