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The Do’s and Don’ts of ‘Al-Desko’ Dining

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

During the harsh winter months, we often look forward to sunnier times, when we can enjoy leisurely lunch hours out in the park, eating a healthy picnic. Unfortunately, this seldom happens, especially if you are living in a country like the United Kingdom, making it likely for you stay indoors all day and eat al-desko. More and more people prefer grabbing food on the go to munch later on their workstations. Now I am not an advocate of you eating lunch on your desks, as discussed in this blog post; however, there are times when that is the only option you have got left due to bad weather or an extremely busy schedule.  So how can you do al desko dining the right way? In this blog post, I will be discussing a few Dos and Don’ts that should help you munch at work like a pro.

Be Well Prepared

You might have planned to go out of office to quickly grab a salad or sandwich, only to find out that you are running late for a meeting or a phone call that just popped out of nowhere, leaving you with no tie at all. To be prepared for such moments, it is a good idea to keep some supplies in your desk drawer. One example of such foods are packet soups that are quick to prepare and take up little space. Portion-wrapped crackers along with some cheese triangles is another veritable feast that you should keep with you at all times. Contrary to the usual belief, cheese triangles can be easily kept non-refrigerated, as long as it is a cool dry place.

Always Be Considerate

Although bringing lunch from home is always far cheaper than buying it, you should always be practical when planning. Do not ever be that annoying person at work who reheats their leftovers and lets his/her peers and visitors smell the aroma. Nobody at work enjoys those smells. They will either feel nausea from all that smell or hate you for enjoying such yummy food and not sharing any with them. Either way, you will end up being the most unpopular person in your office. You should also be considerate of the space you have available in the communal fridge at work. Try to pack your food in streamlined box that does not eat up too much space uselessly, ensuring that others can also store their food appropriately. When you are about to munch on your station, make sure your desk is clear and move your keyboard and mouse out of the way so that they are clear of any debris or crumbs. Make sure your hands are clean before you use your keyboard or mouse again and keep a hand sanitizer on your station for quick cleaning.

Keep Fruits for Healthy Eating

Always ensure that you are eating enough fruits by keeping them available on your desk, visible as a constant reminder. It is great that some offices in the United Kingdom have fresh fruits available for all employees but if that is not the case with you then it is better to come prepared. Having fruits for lunch is essential to a healthy lifestyle. It is easy to lose track of time when busy at work, so make sure you keep them easily available and accessible to you. In addition, if you get tired of having bananas and apples then maybe you could try mini tomatoes or baby carrots for a change. If you buy your own fruit then it is a good idea to buy it weekly and keep it at work rather than bringing it from home daily. Bringing it from home daily will mean that your bag will smell of the grocery shop all the time. Having a supply of dried fruits and nuts is another good way to fill your appetite and give yourself an energy boost. It is important to stay hydrated, so add a bottle of water on your desk as well.

Be a Little Adventurous

When dining al-desko, you should never settle for a daily sandwich. Instead, you should look at ways in which you can mix things up a little. Use your leftover chicken into a healthy couscous salad or a fresh and tasty burrito. Bring crudités and dip of your choice. Instead of using bread every day, replace it with scones. And even if you have a habit of using bread every day, you can jazz up your ordinary sandwiches with little effort. Use corned beef, sun-dried tomatoes, spring onions and grated cheese. Adding a smear of piccalilli to ham can also make it very interesting. If your fridge is loaded with jars of condiments then you should definitely experiment with them.

Make it a Proper Lunch Experience

Stopping yourself from whatever you were doing to enjoy a nice little meal is a beautiful feeling, and something that needs to be enjoyed. If you are able to get a few minutes to enjoy your lunch, you should try to make the most of it. Eat that sandwich or salad off a proper plate. Pour your drink into a glass and enjoy it. Use metal cutlery instead of plastic if possible. Keep paper napkins with you for easy wiping. If you make it feel more like an occasion with the help of small upgrades, you will be able to distance yourself from work and avoid any likelihood of just pushing that sandwich into your face while scrolling through emails with your other hand. Checking emails should not be considered a leisure activity and it basically disguises the fact that you are supposed to be taking a proper break. If you were to turn away from your laptop screen, put on some music and close your eyes, it would be a clear signal to your colleagues to not disturb you. You should seriously take a proper break, going completely offline, even if for a few minutes.

Tips for Al-Desko Dining

Now that we have discussed some of the major Dos and Don’ts of dining al desko, let us look at some quick tips to keep in mid to avoid any unpleasant surprises:

  • Avoid Smelly Foods. As already discussed earlier, this is a simple rule that just needs to be followed. Some of the worst offenders are garlic, onion, tuna, chilli, sardines and strong cheeses. Rice salads, sliced meats, tomatoes and Italian breads are all good.
  • Eat on Time. While it might seem easy to apologise to others for eating at your desk, it might look ridiculous if you open your lunch at 11am and all of your team is hard at work. When you are working in an office, you are automatically supposed to play your part in the team, meaning that positive relationships with your colleagues will be essential. Save your meal for official office lunch hour and if you really have to eat on your desk, try to be as inconspicuous as possible.
  • Know If Your Company Gives Lunch Breaks. Staying at your desk while you eat your lunch could be seen as yet more time spent by you working. Your management has a legal duty to ensure all employees have a minimum of 30 minutes of break. Therefore, make sure that your employer has a particular view on whether you are eating in office contrary to safety legislations.
  • Never Expect Peace. Lunch box or not, if you are sitting at your desk, your colleagues will assume that you are still working. Your lunch will be interrupted by questions, calls for help as well as problems to deal with right there, and you will be expected to take care of all this. Eating in office will make it practically impossible for others to figure out if you could be disturbed, unless you have ‘go way’ sign glued to your head.
  • Clean Up Well. No matter how careful you are, you will end up scattering fragments of packed lunch across your desk and floor, and there will not be any clean up in the afternoon. And while you may have your ow desk, your office space will likely be shared, meaning that all workers have a right to a pleasant and clean working environment. More seriously, trips and slips with spillages cause a majority of workplace accidents. So the next time you think a squashed berry will not cause a serious accident, think again.
  • Ask Boss for Permission. Unless you have a very relaxed environment at work, you should ask your line manager for permission, as there might not be an agreed policy on lunching al-desko. Presence of some particular foods might affect allergy sufferers, so a good cautious approach would be to ask others around you.

Do you regularly munch on your workstation? How do you take care of your workstation after eating on your desk? Is it fine to eat on your station at your workplace? Share your experiences with other readers in the comments section. Moreover, do check out our other blog post on drinking alcohol during lunch breaks.

 

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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