This only applies to those of us in the working world, of course. Sorry, you work from home types don’t count. Unless you actually eat at your home desk.
I’ve noticed this trend in the last 10 years and it’s gotten worse and worse. I seems no one has time and/or doesn’t want to appear to not be busy so they eat at their desk. This phenomenon is especially true of contractors, who don’t want to be seen as having any “down” time to eat lunch like a normal human being. So is this a thing everyone does now, or what?
Posting, of course, from my desk while I eat lunch.
I eat at my desk a lot. It sucks mainly because I like getting out of the office and getting away from it all for an hour. Unfortunately, clients can and will call during lunch anyway, and everything is an emergency that requires an answer right now, so getting away from my desk is impossible.
Yeah, my point is this: since most of us don’t get breaks during the day, lunch is the one time we should have some down time. Mentally it helps if you are away from your desk during that time.
In practice I’ve always found that you are the most creative when you are away from your actual “work” area (desk, conference room, etc.) and thinking about something else or just casually chatting. It’s why people get inspiration in the shower, out on walks, etc. With no break at all during your day it’s not only a morale hit but I woudl think a creative hit as well. Just my $.02.
I work in an open-lab environment with about a half-dozen other engineers. About a year and a half ago, when I started working at my current place, there was a culture of all of us going out to the cafeteria for lunch.
There are two company cafeterias near our building, and at the time, they had different lunch offerings. We would alternate which one we would go to. Lunch time was a blast. It was joking, and catching up, and talking about our projects. It was learning about each other’s strengths, getting advice on places we were stuck, and talking about various other interests we may have. In the summer, it was mentoring interns and learning more about these potential hires. It was an hour of invaluable networking and team-building, most every day. Sometimes someone would miss our group lunch for a lunch meeting or a lecture or for “introvert recharge time.”
A year ago the company that was providing meal services lost the contract, and a for-profit came and took over. The result was more expensive meals, smaller portions, limited options (especially for vegetarians like myself), and poorer flavor. Since then, I have started bringing lunch – minus a few times when I was too lazy, or meeting someone for lunch, or going off-lab for an event. Everyone else still buys lunch, but for some reason, nobody eats in the cafeteria anymore. Sometimes everyone walks down to the cafeteria together – now we only go to the nearby one, because the other cafeteria has the same menu – where everyone buys lunch, and then walks back to the lab, where we all eat dejectedly at our desks. Sometimes the lunch-getting expedition is staggered, with one or two people going at a time, over the course of about 90 minutes. Lunchtime conversations are no longer a thing. I don’t know what anyone does, what anyone likes, or what’s exciting for anyone anymore. A few times a month, a colleague and I have lunch on the patio outside our lab. It’s usually just the two of us. She buys her lunch and walks it back with the others. Maybe some people work during lunch, but I doubt it. I’m guessing they browse reddit or Facebook or (in my case) QT3.
It’s shocking that the change in vendor created – or catalyzed – such a huge cultural change in my group.
fire, you are talking exactly to my concern (I guess it’s a concern) here. That lunch time is super valuable for informally recharging, getting to know people, etc. But I have asked several people over the course of the years and it’s almost always some flavor of “I don’t have time” which translates to either 1) I want to look busy or 2) I want to go home earlier or maximize billing time.
I’m one of the lucky people who has a 7 minute commute from home, which means I go home most days for lunch. Maybe one day a week I’ll go out with co-workers. As for eating at my desk, I think I do that once every two months or so, on the rare occasion that I have something that absolutely has to get done immediately. I try hard to not do it. Thankfully at my current job, eating at your desk is seen (at least by some in middle management) as an artifact of poor planning and/or time management.
Which coincides with the increase in social media and other aspects of digital life. I agree that people are probably having lunch at their desk more than before, I don’t agree that it’s primarily out of a desire to appear like a busy-bee.
We’ve progressed more and more to being a multi-tasking generation-- contemplating your sandwich, alone, is probably not enough to maintain our attention.
I eat lunch at my lunch but the place where I buy my lunch has crazy slow service which I like because I take a book and I get a 10 to 15 minute reading break in the middle of the work day while I wait for them to make my sandwich.
I’m eating homemade chicken soup at my desk now. We get catered Tu/Wed/Th, but I didn’t like the food today and the soup helps with a cold. I agree that communal eating does help solve some work problems.
I eat at my desk because I don’t really find the process of going to an eating out terribly fun or relaxing. And as others said, I use my lunchtime to troll the forums and the like (I can do this stuff anytime but most of the non-lunch hours I am simply too busy). There’s also the shorter work day factor. In prior jobs I used to ride the lunch bus as we often went out to the mall food court or such, but the last couple of places I’ve been, it hasn’t been something that goes on. Probably because the last 2 places I’ve worked there haven’t been a whole lot of people I’d consider friends.
I probably do the worst of both things - I go out and grab food (from a fast food restaurant) and bring it back to my desk to eat, probably on average four times a week.
This is bad for several reasons. One, I am paying stupidly inflated prices for food - I am honestly probably averaging spending $8-10 a day for lunch. Two, I should be out meeting people and marketing myself through networking lunches (which I hate).
On the other hand, I do not eat lunch at my desk because I have to work, I eat lunch at my desk precisely because it does allow downtime. I can surf the web, read some news, etc. I talk to people all day, and I like having that hour of piece in my office with the door closed where I do not have to pretend to be interested in people.
Other than making pre-arranged commitments like meetings, I do not really have set hours. I bill by the hour, so it really does not matter if I work from 12:00-1:00 or 7:00-8:00 (unless I have so much work that day that I have to do both). I could probably use the lunch hour to work and go home an hour earlier, but I hate my job, and therefore take that free hour of mental peace in the middle of the day when I can get it.
I prefer to eat out for lunch when I can, since for me it’s as much about getting some physical and mental distance from work as it is about stuffing my maw. Plus the food options are more diverse if I go offsite; and my desk isn’t exactly ideal as an eating platform. But that’s not always an option - some days I’m pressed for time, other days I’m just feeling lazy - so I probably eat at my desk at least half the time.
Even as a work at home this is my feeling. Sure, I could eat in the dining area, but my downtime is much more enjoyable browsing the web on a full sized monitor instead of my phone. I used to be like SlyFrog, going to grab fast food daily as a way to distance myself and take a break. Maybe it was better for me mentally, but it was definitely worse for my wallet and gut (healthy and fast options are few and far between here). Over time I’ve finally trained myself to completely ignore any work emails during lunch – I deal with reporting and metrics, most of which have very clearly defined deadlines, so there is nothing that could possibly be important enough that it can’t wait an hour.
Definitely see this phenomenon where I work. There’s also a segment of us that unfortunately get no paid time off as contractors. So for any vacation I want to take, I not only have to budget for the cost of the trip, but the loss of wages for not working. Which is why the last vacation I took was for PAX last year, and this year I’m flying out to Seattle as late as I can and redeyeing back so I only have to take 2 days off.