Let’s admit it, we all do it. We eat at our desks. In fact, according to a consumer survey as many as 50% of Dubliners eat lunch at their desk. No doubt, this number has increased during the pandemic with the mad rush to grab something out of the fridge between zoom calls.
Even photographers have seen the funny side.
It’s safe to say that desktop dining has been firmly planted in our workplace culture.
But we’re here to tell you it’s time to change that culture! Eating “al desko” isn’t healthy and it’s a surefire way to kill your creativity. Instead, build a mealtime culture at work that encourages your team to take a break and recharge.
Now more than ever, it is time to Shape the Modern Workplace – luckily, we have a useful guide that will help you do exactly that.
Why is desk eating a bad idea?
Headline grabbing claims that a sedentary lifestyle is as bad as smoking may be sensational but there is no doubt that an active lifestyle is good for our health. The HSE says sitting at work all day can counteract the health benefits you get from exercising and can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
While some say working from home has given them more time to do things like cook and go on nature walks, apparently for others, it has also contributed to a more sedentary lifestyle. In fact, the HSE also reports that 53% of workers in Ireland have been sitting down for longer than when in the office, in some cases sitting for three hours more each day than they did before.
Sitting down all day can make us more tired, irritate our neck and back, and increase our likelihood to overeat or to grab unhealthy food. The HSE suggests that breaking up long periods of sitting with even just one or two minutes of movement can have a positive benefit. Therefore, taking time to go outside, walk to the café to get a sandwich or eating lunch in a park can be enough of a recharge to benefit your mind and body.
But, the problem with eating “al desko” isn’t just physical; it’s mental too.
Benefits of a motivated workforce
It is in the best interest of companies to keep their employees healthy and happy, so that they are more engaged and productive. Gallup has found that businesses with engaged employees have reported 17% higher productivity and 21% higher profitability, so finding ways to boost these in the offices as well as while working from home is in the company’s interest.
Motivating employee creativity and productivity with food
Think about when you last had an “aha” moment. Where were you? Chances are you weren’t sitting at your desk staring at your computer screen. In fact, you were likely doing something completely unrelated to the problem you were trying to solve. But, embedding reflective time in our workday is easier said than done because it’s hard to justify putting time aside or switching tasks when deadlines are looming.
Yet, contrary to the popular belief that we have a limited attention span, it may be that the attention issue is actually more related to task fatigue. Research has shown that when you take a break from the task at hand and work on something totally unrelated, you are able to think more creatively when you return to the original task. Another way to increase creativity? Talk to people!
Collaborating with others to gain new insights is the best way to generate new ideas. It’s pretty hard to talk to people when you’re answering emails and stuffing your face with an egg and cress from Pret.
Ideas to boost team motivation, creativity (and prevent them from eating at their desks)
If you want your team to stay healthy and be creative then create a culture where taking a break for lunch isn’t just accepted, it’s expected. Ruchika Tulshyan provides top tips for building a lunchtime culture. The best one is simply to lead by example. Show your colleagues that it’s okay for them to step away from their desk and reclaim lunch! Make lunch at work a pleasurable part of the day, instead of an annoying interruption that’s only about refuelling.
In fact, the lunch hour doesn’t just have to be about food – it can be about getting exercise, doing a bit of shopping or even popping into a gallery for a few minutes. Ask yourself if your team really is getting any good work done or if they could actually use a break. Then, take a break yourself – or better still – ask a colleague to lunch.
Here are five ways to help prevent employees from eating at their desks and boost their creativity and motivation:
1. Office breakout area
Create a space dedicated for lunch and eating together. When there is a nice dedicated space, employees will want to move away from their desks for breaks.
2. Stimulate eating breaks
Taking a proper break during the working day helps renew focus – why not make it a ritual? Sound a lunch hour gong or set up lunch alerts on slack to make sure lunch is on everyone’s mind!
3. Organise Office Catering (sure, we are biased – but it works!)
4. Eat together / team lunch
Eating together as a team is not only great for social bonding within the teams – it is a great tool to ensure your workplace is more inclusive. You could even set up a raffle table where employees from different departments that usually don’t work together, eat together.
5. Eating at desk policy
Subject to availability of a dedicated lunch space, you could actively discourage people from eating at the desk with a ‘No food on this floor’ policy to ensure they take a break and move away from screens for a short while.
To know more about how to develop the workplace of the future, download our guide on “Shaping the Modern Workplace: Exploring the role of food in destination offices”