Tips and advice for eating at your desk etiquette - office table manners - photo of girl eating at desk

Business dining etiquette advice to avoid desktop dining faux pas

In an ideal world, none of us would have to eat at our desk. We would not be stressed and could enjoy a fabulous restaurant on our 2 hour lunch break like French workers. But this is the real world where we’re always working under deadlines and our desk becomes our table d’hote.

Table for one?
While we cut people slack if they’re eating in the staff lunchroom, it becomes trickier when eating at your desk, inches away from colleagues. This is not the time to eat garlic infused bread or escargot.

5 etiquette tips for eating at your desk:

Tip 1 – Desktop menu planning

Plan your lunch menu at your desk with others in mind. Colleague relationships are important at work and you don’t want to bring messy or odorous food that could jeopardize those relationships. It’s not only what you eat but where you eat it and how you eat it.

Tip 2 – Loud eaters

Crunch, munch, it sounds like you’re enjoying that. Noisy food when eating at your desk, even chewing food can disturb coworkers. It’s bad enough to have loud talkers without loud eaters. Try to close your mouth when you munch. Nachos and carrots are especially noisy. It might feel like you are working in a mouse maze but it shouldn’t sound like it. Speaking of mice, what about cheese?

Tip 3 –  Foods to avoid

Off the menu is anything that permeates the office especially when microwaved. The list can include:

  • Who cut the cheese – Camembert and smelly cheeses
  • Box office poison – Microwave popcorn (our at-home Netflix favourite)
  • Eau d’salmon – fish or foods that have fish-sauce odor
  • Spice it up – odorous ethnic foods (yes Terry, that includes Irish corned beef and cabbage)
  • Garlic breath – garlic infused foods like Caesar salads, garlic stuffed olives (as an Italian, a favorite of mine)

Tip 4 – Tidy up

If eating at your desk, keep some wipes nearby and tidy up afterwards. Your work space is part of your brand and shouldn’t look like a fast food waste bin. Just as important is to dispose of any wrappers or leftovers in a trash can as far from work spaces as possible. Lead by example.

Tip 5 – Talk it out

Offensive me, moi? Keep your antenna up for signals about your own desktop dining faux pas. Someone wrinkling their nose and asking “What’s that smell?” is a sure sign that the food you bring may be too smelly. If you need to bring up your own complaint, first try a subtler approach. “ I can tell you’re having …. for lunch again.” If they don’t get the hint, have a heart-to-heart. Start by asking if anything you eat bothers them. Then share your issues.

It’s your brand
Your personal professional brand extends to your business dining skills and in the office that includes eating at your desk. Take our advice and enhance your image in the office. Your colleagues will thank you.

Audio clip from my CBC interview on dining at your desk  

Here’s a link to a great 2 minute audio clip of my CBC radio interview with workplace columnist Rubina Ahmed-Haqon on the business dining etiquette of eating at your desk. Courtesy of the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and decorous diner

Other articles:

About the author 

Joanne Blake

Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

  1. This is a good article. Always dealing with the crumbs left by people who attend lunch meetings

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}