Are you a filthy animal in the office? Manchester workers reject claims that eating at desk is ‘disgusting’

By Danielle Wainwright

Grabbing a quick sandwich in between typing emails, checking Facebook and indulging in a little online shopping is fast becoming the lunch-time norm for most office workers.

Crumb-laden keyboards and sticky mice are just two of the perils facing those who choose to chomp at their desks.

The government’s public health minister Anna Soubry described eating at your desk as ‘disgusting’ and slammed employers for allowing their workers to eat lunch while working.

Research reveals that 54% of workers eat at their desks, some cited the impracticality of taking an hour-long break, preferring instead to use the time and get more work done.

But evidence now suggests that eating at your desk could have more perilous consequences, with medical research suggesting links to obesity, stress, deep vein thrombosis and blood clotting.

It make sense that remaining stationary for long periods of time (about the same time as a normal working day) can contribute to DVT, staring at a computer screen all day can frazzle your brain and a hectic work schedule can cause you to wolf down your lunch causing indigestion.

Let us not forget either, that being cooped up in an office permanently glued to your seat all day can cause the worst thing of all…a cranky co-worker!

Even before the age of computers and intercoms, writer Aldous Huxley explained how a midday break is vital in keeping spirits high.

He said: “A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.” 

From a hygiene perspective eating at your desk can make for some unsavoury results.

ATP, a molecule found in all animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast and mould cells, indicates the presence of contamination on an object.

An ATP level of under 100 indicates that a surface is relatively clean, but an ATP level of over 300 indicates a ‘high risk for illness transmission’.

A study from a cleaning product manufacturer found that 27% of keyboards had an ATP level of over 300.

In addition 75% of bathroom taps, 48% of microwave door handles and 21% of vending machine buttons had high contamination levels.

It seemed that this subject had Mancunians chomping at the bit, rather than at their desk.

Paul Jones, 35, Salford, dismissed the hygiene warning and said: “I eat at my desk sometimes and I don’t have food in the keyboard because I don’t eat like an animal.”

Elizabeth Welch, 24, Manchester, said that those claiming that eating at your desk is a major factor in obesity is ridiculous.

She said: “It’s their own fault for not living properly and having self-discipline elsewhere in their lives, they are just using this as an excuse.”

If desk eating is such a threat as so many dieticians and lifestyle coaches have explained then why have employers not done more to improve this?

Mrs Soubry believes that bosses should pay for their workers lunches which should eliminate the financial aspect for missing or eating lunch at their desk.

Glassdoor spokesman Scott Dobroski said: “Many studies show that eating healthier foods leads to more activity, more concentration, more energy and better overall health.

“Racing down to the nearby deli can also eat up time that might otherwise be spent chatting business with colleagues over fine in-house cuisine.”

One company that really takes lunch-time seriously is Facebook.

They regularly provide professionally-cooked lunches for their employees due to research suggesting that there is a strong correlation between having a hearty lunch and nurturing high morale and raising profits.

One Facebook employee commented on the social networking site: “Amazing food, we get breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner served up by the best chefs around!

“Menus change daily and my favourite to date has been the Willy Wonka-themed lunch menu. Sushi day is legit [sic] too.”

In an ideal world companies across the country would provide gourmet lunches that would provide employees with a realxing hour away from their desks, however, as research suggests, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Picture courtesy of yuichi.sakuraba via Flickr, with thanks

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