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The butler is in: Tips on eating at work

Sometimes it's necessary, sometimes you know you shouldn't be doing it, and sometimes it's required, so here are some tips from certified protocol and etiquette consultant John Robertson.

Eating at work will happen. Here's how to do it right

If you're going to eat at your desk, a burger with onions may not be a good choice. (Shutterstock / Neirfy)

Sometimes it's necessary, sometimes you know you shouldn't be doing it, and sometimes it's required, so here are some tips from certified protocol and etiquette consultant John Robertson.

When it comes to eating at your desk, the most obvious thing is to be aware of company policy. Some encourage eating at your desk with subsidized food trolleys, other specifically forbid it.

"The first thing is to follow your company policy, but it is never a great habit to get into," said Robertson.

"There's a lot of downside."

The smell

It's not just about sardines or onions or garlic.

Think about how people around you are experiencing your lunch, says John Robertson. (Submitted by John Robertson)

"Anything hot," warns Robertson.

"The smell just wafts right through the office and it's never pleasant for others who are working to be smelling your lunch."

Consider also what's left behind. A takeout container with lingering smells is best disposed of away from the work area.

The noise

"You trying to quietly eat a bag of chips one by one is like Chinese water torture to those within earshot."

Raw, crunchy vegetables, such as carrot or celery, can create the same problem.

Robertson also notes that it is important to take breaks.

"You'll feel better and be more productive if you get up, and get out and move around," he said.

While some days there is just no time to step away from your desk, Robertson suggests you don't make it a habit.

The communal kitchen

This is a shared space, so clean up after yourself, even in those areas it might be convenient to close the door on.

"A lot of angst arises out of that microwave," said Robertson.

"People heat things without covering, like spaghetti sauce, it splatters, then walk away oblivious."

The refrigerator is also a shared space, and the shelves should not be considered first come, first served.

"Don't arrive Monday morning with 12 bottles of water and take up the whole top shelf."

When eating is required

Eating can be an integral part of work events.

It's perfectly fine, for example, to have a slice of cake in celebration of someone's birthday.

And then there are work luncheons and dinners. The important thing to remember is that these events are about much more than eating.

"Business lunches are for doing business," said Robertson.

A business lunch is primarily about business, not lunch. (Getty Images)

"Use it to your advantage. Know who's coming. Make a point of networking with the people who will be useful to you, or that you need to impress."

Be careful about what you order. Get something that's not going to be messy, and that you can eat without having to pay a huge amount of attention to it.

That means avoiding hamburgers or pastas with a lot of sauce.

Finally, when someone is offering you food, or advice, or anything else, never miss an opportunity to say thank you, both at the time, and in a follow-up message.

With files from Island Morning

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