People hate their colleagues eating these smelly and noisy foods at their desk


Boiled eggs and tuna are not popular office choices (Picture: Getty)

It’s lunch time and you probably can’t wait for the delicious salad or sandwich you’ve packed in your bag.

And then it hits – the smell of microwaved fish. Enough to put you off your food.

We’ve all been there when someone else’s lunch from home stinks out the whole office for the rest of the afternoon.

Research from cleaning company SMC Premier Cleaning, showed that eating at your desk is becoming more popular.

Of the 5,000 UK office workers surveyed, 26% of respondents say they eat at their desk at least 1-3 times per week. A quarter of office workers will eat 3-5 days and 4% eat lunch at their desk every day.

And if you’re eating at your desk, those around you get to smell what you’re eating. If you are eating something with a strong scent, it might be time to consider stepping away.

We asked some office workers about the big no nos in their office environment.

Fish, as mentioned above, is not a popular choice, particularly tuna.

Sarah said: ‘There was a fish pie incident in my office last week, stunk the whole place out.’

‘Anything with fish can be truly disgusting with a lingering odour,’ Fiona added.

Boiled eggs are another one to avoid if you want to spare your colleagues from the smell – and their own embarrassment.

Lu explained: ‘When I worked in a busy office, I had a colleague that kept eating boiled eggs. They reeked and the smell used to waft over to my desk all the time. Then I would have to deal with people coming over to my desk thinking that it was me with the eggy desk.’

Another boiled egg horror story comes from Barbara: ‘I used to work with a guy who would eat boiled eggs and tinned sardines for breakfast. He would use the leg of the desk to tap the egg against to get the shell off. Had to ask him to stop when I was pregnant.’



How do people spend their lunch break?

According to a survey of 2,000 people by Glassdoor, people spend their lunch breaks doing these things:

  • Prefer to be on my own – 36%
  • Browsing internet – 28%
  • Lunch with colleagues – 26%
  • Eat at my desk to catch up on work – 23%
  • Social media – 20%
  • Admin/ errands – 17%
  • Shopping 16%
  • Exercise – 10%
  • Online gaming – 7%

Some more unusual answers included Rebecca who said she can’t stand the crunching of apples and Jem who was particularly aghast at the idea of boiled cabbage.

Pies, sausage rolls, sushi, leftover takeaways and pot noodles were some other things that people hate.

Of course, we’re all entitled to eat what we want but if you are going to eat something with a bit of a stench, finding an area away from your desk means you can enjoy your lunch without worrying about annoying anyone else.

‘Working in a open plan office, It’s about respect. Respecting that your colleagues may not be as appreciative about your strong smelling lunch as you are. Smells linger and it’s about having a pleasant working environment for all,’ Sarah said.

Others agreed that the problem was the culture of not taking a proper lunch break, rather than the food itself.

A study by Glassdoor of 2000 office workers, found that 70% say that they take less than an hour for lunch, and the average lunch break across the UK lasts just 31 minutes.

Most offices give at least an hour for lunch, although the legal entitlement is 20 minutes every six hours.



What are your rights around breaks at work?

Your rights to work breaks will be in your contract but there are some basic rules.

  • You are entitled to a 20 minute break if you work more than six hours.
  • The time of the break can be decided by your employer but it must be taken during your shift and not added to the start or end.
  • It can be taken in one go somewhere in the middle of the day.
  • It doesn’t count as a rest break if an employer says an employee should go back to work before their break is finished.
  • Workers are allowed to spend it away from their desk or workstation (ie away from where they actually work).

It’s important to remember that most of the time, you aren’t paid for your break so you should take a full hour if you can.

Breaking out of the cycle of sitting at your desk can make this easier. Studies show that taking even a short break can improve your ability to focus on a task over a longer period.

There’s also evidence that eating while you are distracted can actually make you eat more than you need to.

No matter what you’re planning for lunch, it’s good to get some time to clear your head and get some fresh air.

Taking your boiled eggs to the park avoids the smell problem, but more importantly it means you get a proper break too.

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