Because that would make for a completely reasonable, non-inflammatory headline and you'll never get to the top of HN with headlines like that, son.
For me, I had acquiesced to always eating at my desk; convincing myself I was making the best decision for me.
I know myself well enough to know there are aspects of my life I'm not good at regulating or balancing. I also know that I'm good at convincing myself of things that aren't in my best interest. Experiments like this are useful to me for that reason.
I discovered that I was wrong about what I thought I wanted from this particular aspect of life. This discovery was important enough, for me, to make a clear cut decision to alleviate the chances of convincing myself my old routine was a good one.
An analogy that comes to mind is how some people stop smoking cigarettes: cold turkey isn't for everyone, but for those who know it is, they go for it and they stop and they feel better for it. There's science to show eating lunch at the desk is unhealthy. I've found I tremendously enjoy the alternative and the benefits that come with it. So, I've gone cold turkey. But that doesn't mean it's for everyone.
While it's a bit tenuous to compare where you eat your lunch with a long term physical addiction, it's worth noting that the vast majority of people who quit "cold turkey" fail. Indeed, I'll broaden that and say more casually that when people make public pronouncements, using absolute words like never, their failure rate comes within a measurement error of 100%.
Cliffbean says in another post that such absolutism is "an attempt by many people to play against their own psychology.", and I absolutely agree with that, although my take tends to be much more cynical than theirs: It is an attempt to essentially shackle future you with the fickle and short-term observations of current you. Future you, most people eventually learn, doesn't really care much what current you thinks, and will reassess in the future based upon new information.
Which is how we see an unending stream of these disposable lifehack "one week in" observations, always presented as if it's profoundly revealing information that has changed the speaker forever. In a month you can write a "Why I was always eat at my desk", detailing the unhealthiness of take out food and the great financial savings you've enjoyed, the benefits of taking a moment to relax and unwind, and on and on.
Everyone is different. We all have different social patterns, different diets, different behaviors. Do what works best for you, and what works best for you will undoubtedly change over the years. Life is dynamic and is a constantly changing set of circumstances and situations.
But if I have one piece of advice for you, it's to never use the word never. Unless you're telling someone to never use the word never. The only result of making never declarations is that over time your word starts to lose any value.
Now that particular resolution might not be 100% successful. Maybe I will succumb to another cigarette some day. But there's a difference between setting a certain goal, and what counts as succeeding at it.
If I tell myself, I can quit smoking but I'm allowed to smoke a cigarette every now and then, that is setting myself up for failure. I know because that's how I failed previous attempts. Even a single cigarette for me re-triggers the physical addiction, and will make the 2-3 weeks after that extra hard to control and not relapse. That occasional single cigarette would just be making it extra hard on myself to follow through, and the extra willpower needed when I allow myself that, is not worth the supposed pleasure of that one smoke.
(btw I am aware that there also exist people who can actually manage to quit but smoke one cigarette every 2-3 months or so. makes me wonder whether they ever were really addicted in the first place, but that's another question, plus I'm not here to judge anybody. What I do know is, that I am not one of those people)
So I resolve myself to the goal of "no cigarettes anymore, ever", in order to achieve a 99.9% cigarette-free life. But I am sincerely aiming for that 100%, because I'm a bit fed up with the whole addiction thing, experienced it, seen it, learned from it, I'd like to see it fade away to memoryland.
Maybe though my overcoming nicotine addiction is the only thing that is so important to me that I'll allow myself to say "never again". I wouldn't say this about not eating at my desk, for instance, it's too small a thing to make such a big claim about.
This can depend on personality, circumstances, etc. IMO if someone is stuck in a rut and decides the only way out is a complete polar switch, good for them. At least they are making a change for what they feel is the better. They might already know that they don't do well with half-switches and tend to fall back into the same orbit. Or they might just be really overwhelmed in general and find the feel of small yet firm changes appealing.
It can be annoying to have to put up with others' all-or-nothing viewpoints, but it can still be useful to appreciate that their perspective might be informed by experiences that differ from our own.
You're making a huge assumption that people eating at their desks are doing work while eating.
For many people, "I'll just do whatever I feel like each day" is problematic, because the moment right before lunch isn't their brain's best time to make that decision. In that moment, the task at hand looms large in their attention, so they are disproportionately tempted to submit to it and keep working. The benefits of taking the break are somewhere out in the future, they're abstract, and even if you intellectually believe in the benefits, it can be easy to discount them, right there, in that moment. The task at hand is right there, right then, very concrete, no discount.
For such people, all-or-nothing is a way for them to make a decision ahead of time, in a moment of less stress and greater foresight, and perhaps commit themselves to it in a way that takes the decision out of their hands in their weaker moments. They may not come out ahead every day, but if the strategy works, they should come out ahead in the long run.
Thanks for articulating the thought process I'm having almost every day right before lunch time.
>Alternatively when I get stuck on a problem I'll take a longer lunch and get away from my computer for a while.
Exactly sometimes problems are solved by taking time away from them to reflect.
My lunch varies by my mood and workday but I dont choose to stick with one scenario or another. I adapt to what my needs are.
But I definitely know some people do it out of guilt. Indulging themselves, and their co-workers in Productivity Theater.
Coming from a culture where no, people don't eat at their desks, this is really weird for me.
I go and have lunch somewhere (and this has not been a problem in any country I worked). If I really can't go I starve, or go later.
This would be only an exception in "We're saving Apollo 13" kind of stuff.
Whereas she was accustomed to eating at her desk in NYC, she was asked to eat her "stinky tuna salad outside the office!"
I have an office mate who always eats at his desk about 4 feet directly behind me. He chews with his mouth open and takes his time eating his lunch. So I get an hour of lipsmacking and chewing noises every day. That hour is occuring right now and I am reading hacker news because getting anything done with that slurpy wet smacking going on is rather difficult.
I am enough of an asshole to have pointed out I would like if he didn't chew with his mouth open, but not enough of an asshole to argue with him when he denied that he does.
I also realize noise cancelling headphones would solve this problem, but I value being aware of my surroundings (I really want to avoid the situation where someone has to tap me or wave a hand in between me and my screen to get my attention).
I have previously had other office mates who ate at their desks who did not bother me at all, but depending on a persons eating habits it certainly could be inconsiderate to your coworkers.
Edit: For clarification we have a full cafeteria (where he gets his food) as well as other areas he could eat.
Thank you for reminding me of this small slice of my past I had nearly forgotten. It made me smile.
TL:DR "Cool story Hansel"
Someone decides to reheat some fish they caught and had for dinner last night, or has a really heavy garlic/curry dish they heat up and bring to their desk, or covers their food in a pungent sauce, or they bring in McDonalds/greasy fast food, etc.
Inevitably someone complains and HR sends out the "please be considerate of other people when deciding to eat at your desk" email. It seems to happen more quickly in multicultural environments, where many people have different tastes/sensibilities, but this has just been my experience.
Edit: Re-wording! For clarity!
In a loud office, it might not be so bad, but when the office is otherwise quiet, it keeps you from concentrating at all. CRUNCH. CRUNCH. cr-cr-cr-cr-CRUNCHCHCHCHCH.
I never hear them eating it.
But, on the other side of the office, the smell encroaches, stirring the taste buds with delicious promises. And then I look up, curious. And then I realize what happened. And then my stomach goes, "Oooh, that's a good idea."
And then it's too late.
You might say "I don't like working with headphones!" but the point I'm trying to make is that in offices without privacy, some amount of consideration has to be paid to mitigate the effects of other people. There's always going to be some noise that someone makes that annoys someone else. You can't stop it at their end, so you try to stop it at your end.
At some point you simply have to develop the power of concentration. Try focusing intently on your work rather than focusing intently on your surroundings.
I would like others to do the same.
Edit: Even my desk phone is on silent. It sounds a single beep when the phone rings.
> I don't take personal calls at my desk. My phone is on
> silent at all times when at the office. If I need to
> make a call, I step out.
> Even my desk phone is on silent. It sounds a single beep
> when the phone rings.
> I would like others to do the same.
Magical solutions don't seem to work for me. I do not think I have the somatic components necessary.
Trust me, your sandwich is no better to anyone else than your choice in music. Leave it in the breakroom.
I notice that people who complain about sounds and odours are often people who don't have very much to do, at least not with a looming deadline. It's like when you live in a neighbourhood with attached housing; there are always a few who complain about everything they hear and see and they actually do listen to people flushing toilets and accidentally dropping chairs.
Working at home it's a bit different. I generally eat at my desk. I sometimes use that time to go for a walk or go to the gym. But mostly it's internet reading. :\
Or a week of job interviews while we were short staffed and hiring frozen ... but anyway.
- I crave LONG periods of time for coding...
- By noon, I'm really getting rolling. I hate to stop.
- I always plan & pack my lunch exactly like I want.
- I love how everyone else is gone & I'm alone.
- No one I know eats like me...
- I'm tired of explaining/debating food choices.
- I hate standing in line or waiting for my waiter.
- I hate "small talk" over lunch.
- I leave early, before traffic.
- I still exercise more than anyone I know.
- If I want a break, then I surf or email.
- My favorite hour of the day.
jesus christ what
All the reasons he gives seem pretty weak: if you need a break, you can step outside the office for a walk or a coffee or even go read on a bench for 20mn without the activity being necessarily lunch.
Eating lunch at your desk has benefits, such as allowing you to go home sooner or doing things at your computer that are not work related but which you enjoy doing (e.g. reading HN).
The moral here is not "Always eat at your desk" or "Always eat outside" but "Don't always do the same thing".
You spend more time with your coworkers than with your family, so cutting this entire part out of your life for some nebulous principle is not socially smart.
Your coworkers might not be true "friends", in the sense that you're not going to hang out with them outside of work, but there's no reason to restrict getting to know them as people.
I've never once had problems with 'office politics' resulting from getting to know people in a more genuine way. Of course, we all have private things that might be best for anyone but your closest friends not to know, I'm not saying share everything about your life, but I would be very sad if I worked at a place where I felt I couldn't just casually chat with the people I'm spending half my waking hours with.
When I first went to the US I was appalled by people eating at their desks, today I live in the UK and it's common for people to have lunch at their desks, may it be sandwiches or salads they brought from home. I still can't do it.
Reason being I have to breath fresh air, disconnect from the office and have my own personal meal time to sit down and enjoy a meal leisurely. I usually invite people to have lunch with me and I can see that they look almost uncomfortable sometimes.
Catch up on WWDC, wrote some cool hacks, update some libraries, write some tests for someone elses library, do some pull requests.
Lunch itself is a waste of time, adding co-workers that might eat slower than you where social conventions requires you to stick around (because they are kind enough to do so).
I rather just avoid that whole mess.
Besides, lunch was invented so I could watch WWDC in peace.
I am also lucky to work in a place where no one gets upset or questions it.
I actually like the company of my co-workers, but lunch is me being productive.
Unrelated (ish) but much more important: "Don't cook fish in the shared microwaves!" At the current place, all of the microwaves have signs exhorting everyone to "Please cover your food!".
Whenever I read an unqualified claim "there are more bacteria on your keyboard than on a toilet seat", I think "hm, most people must be spending way more time than necessary cleaning their toilets". But of course, the scientist in me also thinks the kinds of bacteria present will make an impact. The bacteria on a toilet seat might be similar to the zillions of bacteria in my stomach, or they might be E. Coli, salmonella, tetanus, syphilis, etc.
I clean my keyboard and mouse regularly, as well as try to keep my hands clean while I'm working (if I eat a chocolate, I'll wash my hands afterwards, for example), but I know I'm the exception.
I hate that it's so hard to find a copy of an academic study.
Should you a find a copy of the study that explored and expounded upon this, I would love to see a link.
So many of us have two options - eat out at a nearby eatery, or eat your prepared lunch at the internal cafeteria.
Personally, and in my circle of friends, we've gone from preferring eating out to preferring eating cooked meals that are either bought at the cafeteria or brought from home.
Maybe it's our preference for cooked food, which after a few years of eating out, will always be healthier if you get if from home. And because many of us have the "luxury" of being able to hire cooks who come in the mornings/evenings.
There are of course many Indians who prefer eating out, but as they get older (read: 4-5 years of working), they start realizing that home-cooked food is a better proposition. Which is why you'll often find a broad cross-section of employees - from an entry level person to CXOs, bringing cooked food in insulated containers as lunch.
At my current job my desk is pretty attractive compared to the surroundings so I prefer that. Also, I can pack a pretty good lunch for myself.
...and then bring it somewhere other than your desk to eat.
The outcome of this is :
Some days I am full of energy and clarity and I eat at my desk and keep working.
Some days I am tired, stressed or for some other reason can't focus, and then I might go out and eat in a park and take my time.
Some days I have friends who want to meet for lunch.
Some days my colleagues want to go out for lunch as a group, typically Friday.
Some days I go eat in the common area because I am eating something smelly.
Some days I skip having anything substantial at lunch and go home early.
...why of course, you can eat that cookie wherever you like
I usually try to take a real lunch, but it is tempting to get a bit of extra time back during midday. It ends up being a slippery slope where it silently goes from once-in-a-while to all-the-freaking-time.
I also probably end up physically leaving my desk, but spending my whole lunch spinning the wheels in my head and that's probably just as problematic.
In my previous job, I would eat lunch out whenever I was in the main office. Otherwise, the owner would decide it was just the PERFECT time for a meeting...
In my satellite office I would eat at my desk, though. In my lone office in the back of a warehouse.
That said, I agree with a lot of what the author has said.
That's just how my mind is set up though and I get why others like to relax and unwind throughout out the day.
In this case someone realized that that they have options about where to eat. While this may seem a tad cynical, in a week they will be back at their desk.