Eating Lunch At Your Desk: The IT Pro Rules

Eating Lunch At Your Desk: The IT Pro Rules

On a busy workday, taking time out to actually go and eat lunch often seems like too much of a challenge. If you are forced to eat at your desk, there are some definite rules you should follow.

Lunch picture from Shutterstock

Let’s be clear: taking a lunch break is a good idea, and it needn’t cost you a fortune. But that doesn’t mean it always happens.

I started thinking about this topic after our sibling publication Business Insider Australia ran a post outlining its own rules for eating lunch at the desk. They’re a good starting point, but for IT pros they need some adjustment.

Let’s start with the most important rule, one we’ve mentioned before: don’t eat lunch in the server room. While that might give you an option to avoid colleagues and stay cool (if noisy), it’s a bad idea. Food scraps attract insects, pizza boxes are flammable, and it’s generally just a bad idea. (We also don’t recommend hiding in there to sleep off a hangover.)

With that out of the way, here are the other suggestions from BI:

Time your meal to match colleagues

Eating lunch at your desk will be a less conspicuous activity if other people are doing it at the same time. How much this rule matters may depend on the degree of fussiness amongst your colleagues.

Don’t eat anything ridiculously spicy

Seriously spicy food can be an olfactory turn-off for others.

Don’t use your phone

Working at your desk while eating is OK. Trying to chat on the phone while stuffing your face is not. (Though if you’re forced to sit in on a conference call but aren’t expected to contribute, I’m not going to judge you.)

Keep your desk and office kitchen clean

This should be obvious, but I’ve seen enough feral office kitchens and crumb-laden desks to know that it isn’t. Dispose of leftovers and wrappers, rinse stuff that needs washing, and make sure to clean your keyboard and mouse regularly.

Not a rule: Expect to be interrupted

BI suggest that this is inevitable: ” Don’t expect your boss and co-workers to leave you alone while you eat. Especially if you work in a cubicle, it will be difficult to notify others you are unavailable.” I’m not so convinced. In IT circles, this is particularly relevant because it’s often essential to have a rule telling colleagues not to hassle you with their immediate issues — that’s what the help desk is for. That principle should apply whether you’re eating or not.

What rules do you follow when dining at your desk? Share your thoughts in the comments.


  • On the ‘expect to be interrupted front’, if someone asks for something, I just say ‘can it wait five minutes?’

    If they say no, and it really could have, they get to wait five minutes while I eat my lunch.

    Edit: Also, if you hang over my food as I eat or prepare, don’t. It’s really just offputting.

    That said, if I do eat at my desk, I make sure to go for a walk/take time in a break room to wind down.

  • “expect to be interrupted” this is exactly why i choose to go out and fully utilse my lunch break. I dont care what IT issue you have, I have the right to enjoy my 1 break from work for the day.

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