In trying times, when solid job openings instantly get dozens of applicants, it seems wise, even necessary, for the employed to do everything they can to hold on to their jobs. For some, that means working weekends or skipping vacations. For others, it could entail proposing a new innovative strategy, or paying more attention to the task at hand. But before you decide to start skipping lunch breaks and become one of the millions of Americans who eat at their desks (or if you're already among them), you should read Sue Shellenberger's article today in the Wall Street Journal.
To some extent, Shellenberger retreads familiar territory; she notes that taking a lunch break helps clear workers' minds and improves their afternoon productivity. This is the mantra of the much-publicized "Take Back Your Lunch" movement, which has cropped up in articles over the past couple years. The idea seems credible enough at this point. Taking time away from work frees up your unconscious mind to wander over the subjects you've worked on in the morning, and eating a nice meal helps recharge your brain from decision fatigue.
But Shellenberger's article is most persuasive on the social costs of eating at your desk. She interviews many office workers who get annoyed when colleagues eat smelly foods in the office for lunch: cabbage, microwaved popcorn and burritos, sandwiches made with tuna or sardines. These situations are unpleasant and awkward for all those affected, so they hurt overall office productivity.
Marketwatch interviewed Shellenberger on the topic yesterday; here's the video.
Even if the article and video don't get you to stop eating lunch at your desk -- or if your boss won't let you -- there are still some things you can do to minimize problems. Take brief breaks to recharge throughout the day, for your own sanity. And bring in foods that don't have any noticeable smell: quinoa salad, cucumber sushi or cold grilled chicken breasts.
On a more personal note: HuffPost, consider this my official apology for all the times I've stunk up the office with bacon, egg and cheeses from Veselka.