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.