When Lunch Comes With a Pink Slip - 5 Good Reasons Not to Eat at Your Desk

Unsuspecting girl eating a healthy lunch on a desk teaming with live bacteria
Author: Shane York | Source: HCI | Published: January 19, 2012

What happens when your Happy Meal takes a turn for the worse?   Ask Sharon Smiley, who was fired from her job at Equity Lifestyle Properties in Chicago for working and eating during lunch hour at her desk.   It seems as though Smiley’s receptionist desk was at the front door of the office, and eating in this highly visible area diminished first impressions of the organization.  Fair enough, no one wants well-heeled clients coming into an office that smells like a New York deli or Sesame beef.   Would I want the receptionist who just finished off an order of ribs taking my coat?  Apparently Smiley had a few food/desk discussions with HR prior to the last incident, but she made news this week when she was able to win back unemployment benefits from her employer.  Now Smiley has raised a much bigger question – is it generally a good idea to have lunch at your desk?


Here’s something to munch on… based on a study by the University of Arizona, your desk has 400 times more bacteria (and more virulent strains) than a public toilet seat.  You might want to remember that the next time your french fry goes rogue.  Actually you could just have your lunch on a public toilet seat – you’d not only have a cleaner surface, you’d finally be away from your desk!  Interestingly, The Washington Post reports that over 75% of Americans eat lunch at their desks two to three times each week, but only 64% of us clean our desktops once a month or less – the other 36% don’t clean their desks at all.  Compare that with how many times you wipe down your dining room table.


As it turns out there are other very good reasons not to have lunch in the cube -

Let’s review the top 5!




Reason #5

People will still bother you anyway – they’ll just watch like it’s feeding time at the zoo.


Reason #4

You know it’s bad when your favorite pizza, deli and hamburger spots' URLs are now included on your company’s firewall.


Reason #3

You’re eating at your desk because they won’t let you eat in the restaurants.


Reason #2

You have to explain to IT how chicken and rice soup got in your keyboard.


Reason #1 When you know it’s a bad idea to eat lunch at your desk.....

Today your head HR person delivers it personally.


The most important reason to not have lunch at your desk is of course…sanity.  Studies show that with just 15 minutes away (outside the building), you not only start to decompress, you begin to re-energize for the afternoon push.  A small but important investment we can make for ourselves everyday, plus you’ll feel better immediately!


Find out how to re-energize your entire workforce with Tony Schwartz.  Tony is one of the featured keynotes at the HCI Human Capital Summit; where he’ll be disclosing a scientifically based approach to building capacity and sustaining high performance across the workforce by renewing personal energy.  The Summit will focus on the newest innovations in:

  • Organizational Strategies
  • Recruitment and Acquisition
  • Social Media and New Technologies
  • Leadership Development and Learning

The prestigious keynote lineup also includes thought leaders such as Doug Conant, Former CEO of Campbell Soup, Jim Stikeleather, Chief Innovation Officer at Dell and Business Guru and Author Gary Hamel.  


Find out more information about this exciting event at: http://www.hci.org/2012humancapital/overview


Photo Credit by Tilt Studio, Inc.