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Get that food away from me. Now…

Work colleagues; they can’t half annoy you.

Obviously it’s for the best if everyone gets on and pulls together as a team, but there are some things that some colleagues do that are unforgivable. And one of them is eating food at their desk.

Not all food; the odd sandwich and an occasional packet of crisps does no harm, but hot food that smells is beyond the pale. It should be a sackable offence.

If you work in a relatively small company it is unlikely that you will have a company canteen, but many larger firms do have one and it is often discounted, so an obvious solution for workers who cannot be bothered to leave the office at lunchtime.

It is crucial that companies allow their employees a decent lunch break, to let them unwind, refuel and return raring to go. Some employees don’t help themselves (or their colleagues) by staying at their desk. Companies can help them to help themselves.

Forget about the stink; dining at your desk cannot be good for you. Consuming a third of your daily calories in a rush means that office workers rarely take their fully-entitled lunch break. While four-fifths (82%) of UK workers with a canteen say they are allowed to take between 30 minutes and an hour for lunch, seven in 10 (73%) will take half an hour or less. 34% said they skip lunch altogether two or more days a week. Instead of eating a proper lunch, employees fuel themselves on caffeinated drinks and sugary snacks. In the long run this results in reduced energy and productivity.

This habit is also making people unhappy. Preoday surveyed UK employees to find out what their current lunchtime habits are, what they wanted from their lunch breaks, and what they thought employers should be doing to help them. When asked what they want to do at lunchtime it wasn’t working (if they could help it). Only 19% said that they want to get more work done at lunchtime, whereas 60% said they would like to do something active – either walking (38%), running errands (32%) or going to the gym (31%).

One solution to avoid this ‘desk dining’ is encouraging workers to use the office canteen. The convenience of workplace cafeterias can provide an environment for a break and a good meal, without needing to go outside and stand in line for it. Whatever else the employee wants to do during their lunch break a workplace restaurant can help ensure that workers do it with a meal inside them.

However, at the moment people aren’t using their canteens as much as they could. The average UK worker only visits their work canteen six times a month and half (53%) of people eat at canteens less frequently than once a week.

A recent survey found that people are most concerned with value and convenience when it comes to visiting their canteen at work. Almost a third (27%) of UK employees surveyed said that speed was important to them, but 24% said it currently takes too long to stand in line in their cafeteria or canteen. Around one in 10 (11%) workers who use their canteen say they often spend more than 10 minutes queuing for their lunch – that means a worker who takes the average 30 minutes for lunch could spend a third of their break waiting to be served.

The customers being lost to slow service can easily be recaptured; 21% said that they would visit more often if the service was quicker or queuing was faster and 26% would visit their canteen more often if they could pre-order lunch and pick it up without queuing.

At the moment not enough office restaurants are making the necessary investments to meet these specific demands, but this year things might be changing. At the moment only 17% of workplace canteens have introduced pre-ordering and 12% are offering pre-payment facilities. This is a missed opportunity to increase footfall among the 24% of people who were put off by queues.

In 2019, it is anticipated that advances in corporate catering will play an important role in keeping employees happy. Employee disengagement is a continuing problem and a recent survey by ADP found that 41% of UK employees feel like quitting at least every few months. Offering staff a subsidised and relaxed environment in which to eat healthily may well be one way forward.

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