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Are desk-lunchers more respected than other employees?

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Question: "I'm starting to feel a little natural pressure to eat lunch at my desk—not because I'm so busy, and not because anyone's recommended it, but just because there are so many people around me who do it, and I get the feeling that when I leave the building for lunch, there's the perception that I'm not quite as dedicated as others are. Simply staying in my cubicle seems to give off the impression that I've never broken stride, even though I'm simply eating and browsing the web. Has anyone else felt this way? Do you think you gain points somehow when you stay deskbound (but idle) at lunch as opposed to heading out?" - Maeve, Publishing Admin

See comments below, and send your own question to editor@adminprotoday.com.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark July 20, 2017 at 10:13 am

Not here. If someone eats at their desk, they are potentially violating the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act, which besides require what’s in the title, also requires a break of at least 20 minutes within five hours of the start of a shift of seven and a half hours or more. We are very strict in following this law. If you eat at your work area instead of getting away and taking a full break, you will get in trouble for violating both regulations and H.R. policy.

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Tom July 17, 2017 at 1:48 pm

I’m an “eat at my desk”er. Always have been, although on rare occasions I’ll slip off with a buddy to grab lunch away from the office. I really think it is a positive statement because eating at my desk makes me super available. I have phone calls coming in all day, so if I can pick up that phone on the first or second ring, consistently throughout my work day, I think people appreciate that. I know I appreciate it when I can reach a person instead of leaving a voice-mail message. I also think it tends to make others see you as more dedicated. I’m not trying to make anyone else look bad, I’m just trying to encourage others to see me as someone who takes their work seriously – someone who is dedicated.

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Jeannie July 17, 2017 at 9:11 am

Hi Maeve,

I don’t believe you ‘gain points’ by staying at your desk and eating your lunch. You have a responsibility to yourself to step away and take a break. It will make you more productive in the long run. I am one who takes my lunch daily, some days I go to our Café and other days I go out. Many of the folks who sit around me eat at their desk and to tell you the truth the smells can be nauseating and I wish they would step away and go to the café.

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Baburajan Kumaran July 17, 2017 at 2:29 am

After a straight 4 or 5 hours of continuous work, it is vital we take a short break. It is mentally refreshing and increases productivity – no doubt about it. Either step out for lunch or have a quick lunch at your desk and then step out for a walk. The later is what I regularly does and found it really enjoying.

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Christine S. July 14, 2017 at 12:58 pm

It’s been proven that getting away from your desk periodically and especially during lunch is better for you mentally and I am sure physically. I feel that if I eat at my desk, I will keep working and not get the much needed break. I will either eat in our breakroom or take it to an empty office upstairs to get away from it all. Sometimes I even take my lunch with me and walk around at the mall or a store. It’s a good way to refresh your brain. Otherwise I just feel like I worked all day without a break.

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Dave H July 14, 2017 at 10:20 am

I don’t know about the perception of my co-workers, and I honestly don’t care. However, I eat alone at my desk in order to stay away from the constant gossip and backstabbing related conversations that occur in the break room. Being one of 3 males in a 100 person office and also being the unofficial “office psychologist,” everyone wants to bend my ear and it often puts me in an awkward position. I avoid that by eating alone and staying neutral in the office politics arena. It has served me well as I am not taking sides or showing any favoritism. The staff know I have the boss’ ear and it can create conflict when I stray from neutrality.

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Jan Lanigan July 14, 2017 at 9:34 am

It’s been proven employees are far more productive if they step away from their work area and clear their head. Exercise and mental health is what keeps a body and mind fresh.

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Jan July 14, 2017 at 8:02 am

I agree, for your health and wellbeing it’s important to get away from your desk. Enjoy some time outside (even if it’s just sitting in your car) to refresh, catch up on phone calls, etc. Maybe you will rub off on your co-workers and they’ll start doing the same. Or you could start asking them to join you for lunch at a nearby restaurant.

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Natasha July 13, 2017 at 8:19 pm

No, I don’t feel so, because heading out does not give any such impression to anybody, since everybody else is also doing the same I would be doing, browsing the web.

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Lori Kensington July 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I am of the belief that your lunch hour is your time. It should be spend away from your desk as much as possible. It is a recharge of sorts, so you don’t get overwhelmed and burn out. People who eat at their desk are actually less productive than those who leave for lunch and take their 15 minute breaks to get away from their desk. How productive can you be sitting the whole time and then with food in your tummy? Don’t feel pressured to stay at your desk. Do what is right for YOU.

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Terri July 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm

My office has no windows, and my desk is situated to where I sit facing a corner for 8 hours. I NEED to get out of here at lunch time! Most days I just eat in the break room, but it always feels good to get outside and go somewhere. Unfortunately, my boss never eats lunch (except for snacks) and sits glued to his computer screen, but I don’t feel guilty leaving. If he doesn’t eat and gets grumpy, it’s his problem, not mine (except that I have to deal with it all afternoon!). I used to have lunch in the break room all the time with a co-worker, but once she was promoted to management, she started eating at her desk every day. I think she feels it’s “expected” of her as a manager. I’m a firm believer in “no shop talk during lunch”, and many days I’ll physically leave the building just to get a break from it!

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Cat Potter July 13, 2017 at 5:01 pm

That happens a lot at my job too, however, I NEED to get away from my desk & converse with people & laugh. It’s good for you to do that so you don’t get burnt out. Besides, comic relief is sometimes needed badly on certain days. It releases stress big time & you feel like you can get through anything thereafter. That’s just my 2 cents…

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Donna July 13, 2017 at 4:43 pm

I take the opposite view – those who stay at their desks are seen as trying to catch up or stay on schedule with their work. Leaving their desk says the opposite. If I do eat at my desk others don’t know I”m on lunch or a break so they think I’m available for work-related issues. If you are hourly, you should take the breaks that are due to you, hopefully away from your desk. The day goes much faster too.

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Robin R, CAP July 13, 2017 at 4:40 pm

I agree with most of the previous comments, however, it has been shown that people who eat lunch at their desks tend to get sick more easily. It’s a great idea to get away from your desk for a mental health break. Lunch breaks are mandated by labor laws and you are not doing yourself any favors by following other employees’ examples.

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Becky H July 13, 2017 at 4:35 pm

It is important for your mental and physical health to get up from your desk and get away from the office for at least a few minutes. At our office, we encourage each other to take a walk or just eat outside at the picnic table. I try to get away at least 3 days a week and when I do eat at my desk it’s only because I’m “on a roll” and actually working. Maybe you should promote a healthy lifestyle by taking your lunch time away from the office.

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Tracy McGarey July 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm

I am very fortunate to have a boss who encourages me to take a lunch break – away from my desk – every day. If I do not have a specific lunch plan off-site, I have found that it is extremely beneficial to take my lunch and a book that I’m currently reading, my iPad, or other with me to another area within my building to eat and relax. The mid-day break during your workday is intended to serve a purpose. For me, I get re-energized and stay more focused for the rest of the workday. I speculate that my productivity is more efficient and even increased! Enjoy your lunch!

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Kenya July 13, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Unless you have been asked directly to sit at your desk during lunch time, the expectation is that everyone has 1 hour of time to go to lunch. It acutally doesn’t matter if it’s at 12noon or 3pm or 11am. Federal rules state this is standard policy for staff members. If you are hourly, staying at our desk during lunch time is considered overtime, even if you are eating. If you happen to respond to email, make a copy, answer the telephone or converse with co-works about work while you are eating, you are still on the clock. Maybe you finish you work faster than others, or maybe they have been asked to stay behind. No matter what the reason, it’s not a concern of yours until your direct Supervisor says something. Stop by one of them and ask if they want to go to lunch with you. It may open up some intel on what is going on and if you need to follow suit. Without the intel, continue going to lunch.

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KF July 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm

I’ve always felt as an hourly employee that it’s best to leave your desk if you are taking your full lunch break. It’s been my understanding from previous employers that if you do any type of work during an off-the-clock break, then you’re technically still working, in which case, you should get paid. So if you are on a break and decide to eat at your desk, realize that people may come to you for work-related issues. That alone is one reason that, as an hourly employee, I clock out and remove myself from my desk – whether it’s our cafeteria or off-site. As someone else mentioned, getting away from your desk and trying to completely disconnect from work has benefits. Don’t feel pressured to stay at your desk. If anything, getting away helps you come back more energized to work, which is beneficial to not only yourself but to your coworkers as well.

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Lynn July 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm

I never eat at my desk. I don’t like crumbs in my keyboard. However, I very rarely go out of the building for lunch. We have many quiet locations around our building, inside and outside, where we can enjoy quiet time for the 30 minutes we are allotted for lunch. I choose to sit near my workstation (about 15 feet away), so if my co-workers need me, they can find me, but far enough that it really feels like a lunch break. Also, there are many studies that have been done showing that it is healthier for you to leave your desk and take a break from work. I’d be willing to bet that your co-workers are not as healthy as you. Pay attention to that instead of the other. Finally, your lunch break is YOUR lunch break. Use it as you see fit.

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Barbara July 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm

I often ate at my desk, actually most of the time – not to impress anyone or to show how dedicated I was but because I am an introvert. No one seem to guess that – not all of us are shrinking, timid, violets. But quite frankly I needed time by myself to regroup and get through the rest of the day. There are other reasons for eating at your desk – no lunch facilities in the office and you brown bag it, can’t afford to buy lunch out every day, want quiet time, need to get some personal calls, emails, catch up with the news, etc. Eating lunch at your desk does not mean you are also working. Everyone knows you’re not doing that! Do what you want to do – vary it up if you feel the need to eat lunch at your desk on occasion and go out the rest of the time. No one is really impressed one way or the other.

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Stephanie N July 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Same as Cynthia – some eat at in their desk and some make an effort to either go out or get away to the lunchroom. I find that if I stay at my desk, even though I have up a sign indicating that I am lunch, people will interrupt me and expect me to deal with whatever their issue/problem is right then. I find it helpful to go for a walk and get away from my desk – it helps me better focused for the afternoon.

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CCM July 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm

I’m a firm believer and practice getting away from my desk to eat lunch every day. I don’t normally go out to eat; however, I do go into our department common area break room. It does your mind, body and soul good to take a break, relax and reset for the rest of your day.

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Dawn N. July 13, 2017 at 4:13 pm

I always eat at my desk unless I have someplace I have to go to run errands. I don’t feel pressured to stay at my desk or leave my desk and do not think twice about what other co-workers choose to do. If you are getting your work done, are happy with your work performance, and your supervisor is impressed with you, do as you please.

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Cynthia S. Philbrook July 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

In my office, there are people who eat at their desk and those who make an effort not to. There have been plenty of articles saying why getting away from your desk is a health benefit. Don’t feel pressured into eating at your desk.

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