Office eating etiquette

When you were little, your parents probably told you about:

  • not putting your elbows on the table
  • excusing yourself if you burp
  • not slurping your soup
  • other rules of eating etiquette.

Now though, many meals aren’t eaten at a table; we eat in the car en route to activities and at our desks at work. As much as our dining culture has become much more casual, there are still a few points to remember to ensure you aren’t the subject of ridicule at the water cooler.

We can all do our part in retaining some semblance of a civilized society.

If you are a supervisor or manager, it’s important to set a good example for your troops. If you often eat at your desk, never taking time out to properly “refuel," then, you’re likely to have a department full of overworked and underproductive folks.

If your work space has a never-ending collection of mugs, wrappers and muffin or chip crumbs, you’re encouraging a lack of focus for and the consumption of empty calories.

There are companies that have proven teams that enjoy lunch together communicate better and collaborate more easily; but even just encouraging a simple break improves productivity, and keeps desk space much cleaner.

Most people work at offices with open work space, and even if you have your own office, you likely spend time in a communal lunchroom or have people in your office for meetings or discussions.

Therefore, the first thing to consider in office eating etiquette is other people’s sensibilities. We can’t please everyone all the time, but choosing to leave the strongly scented garlicky stew or leftover fish at home is smarter than warming it up in the office microwave and then breathing it on everyone nearby.

Leave your odorous dishes at home and everyone will thank you.

Sharing at meal time is a gesture of hospitality that goes back to the earliest meals of history. You don’t have to bake cookies on a regular basis and take them around the office, but occasionally it can be a lovely gesture.

When I worked at a big office, I used to have a candy dish on the meeting table in our work pod. It got to be a destination, a bit of respite for anyone flagging in energy and an easy conversation starter that spawned more than a couple of brilliant ideas.

It seems to follow that Mary Poppins “spoonful of sugar” principle, helping people think positive when they might otherwise be less than enthusiastic.

Even if food is not something shared at your place of work, you can show old-fashioned good manners by offering to do a coffee run or fill your neighbour’s water bottle when you go to the cooler.

It can help you learn about your colleagues and open the doors of communication – even if you discover they don’t appreciate you stopping by.

Remember that good manners include being gracious; if a co-worker is put off by your spending work time to socialize with a simple coffee request, just consider it a lesson learned. Knowing they have a more conservative view may help working more easily with them on a later group project.

The business of eating “al desko,” as it’s officially been labelled, is not only bad form, but also generally bad for your health. When we don’t focus on what we’re eating, we eat more calories.

Trying to multi-task by continuing to type, or to read or take notes while snacking works best with unhealthy options like junk food and sweets. You owe it to yourself as well as your work mates to value your body and its capacity for good work.

Did you know that eating at your desk can even lead to lower back pain and bad general posture? (It’s what comes of an overly sedentary work lifestyle).

Whether you subscribe to the idea of valuing a meal break at work or you want to continue dining al desko, please do try to follow the basics of table manners:

  • don’t talk with your mouth full
  • have a napkin handy to wipe your mouth
  • eat slowly and chew with your mouth closed
  • leave your utensils in your plate or bowl when you’re done eating.

Once you’re finished, be courteous enough to use a toothpick or dental floss and reapply your makeup away from your eating place. You can then carry on with your day, and rest easy knowing your mom would be proud of you.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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