The work days are filled with lunch-related dilemmas. From skipping a meal to dining with a client, there is a right and wrong way to go about handling the office lunch break. The following are a few do's and don'ts to get you through a typical day.
Lunch Break Do's
Take a break. Even if you don't plan to eat a heavy meal, go outside and move around. Go for a walk with a coworker and get some natural vitamin D from the sunlight. You can build upon, or improve a business relationship while also working out and enjoying a change of scenery.
Eat in the lunch room. Bringing your lunch ensures you can pack your own variety of healthy foods. It is also an opportunity to get to know colleagues that you wouldn't normally see during the work day. An isolated coworker is generally not a happy coworker. If you see someone eating alone at their desk, take it upon yourself to invite them to join you at the kitchen table.
Find a take-out. Not every drive thru has bad meal options. You can often find something on the menu that works in a pinch. Consider venturing out a few times a week and sitting by yourself there, either with a good book or solo at a quiet table and relaxing for a few minutes before heading back into a chaotic work environment. A little quiet time is good for refreshing your frame of mind.
Keep your big gulp away from the electronics. You may enjoy a green smoothie or an iced tea with your meal, but bringing it back to your desk can be hazardous to your equipment. An unanticipated spill can damage everything from your power strip to your central processing unit. A few last sips are not worth the risk of hindering your productivity.
Participate in a lunch meeting. If you are invited to a working lunch, forgoing the box lunch because you are "on a diet" is a bad call. Think carefully before asking for special accommodations. You can remove the bun from the burger or eat the salad and skip the fries. Do what you can so that you do not appear high maintenance. If you have a food allergy or dietary restriction that could compromise your health, make sure to inform the person ordering the meal in advance. They will appreciate the heads up.
Lunch Break Don'ts
Don't choose noisy or messy foods. When sharing a business meal with your boss, a client or even a subordinate, order something that does not require the use of your fingers or multiple napkins. Order wisely, even if you are out at a burger joint, where the atmosphere is casual. You do not want to be distracted by your food. It is important at a business lunch for you to concentrate on your guest and the conversation. You don't want to focus on cracking the lobster claw or twirling a basketball-size mound of spaghetti on your fork. Chicken breast, vegetable medley and penne pasta are all safe bets.
Don't skip a meal. Your body needs fuel to be productive. Drinking a cup of coffee for breakfast, snacking on a doughnut at 9am and waiting to sit down for dinner to enjoy a decent meal is bad for business. You will become irritable and not able to completely focus on important projects. At some point, your energy level will become depleted and your productivity will decline. You can't work at your optimum best when your stomach is growling and you are avoiding your peers and your boss because you are worried someone will hear it.
Don't eat at your desk. Most executives get so busy during the workday that it is tempting to grab an energy bar or a bag of chips and eat in front of their computer. Aside from the fact that it's not in your best health interest to devour something quickly and power on without standing up or taking a break, it's also unsanitary. Your keyboard, desktop and supplies are all breeding grounds for nasty germs. Crumbs on your chair and the lingering smell of tuna or fried chicken does not send a professional message.
Don't heat stinky food in the microwave. Equally offensive as a smelly cubicle is a pungent lunch room. Bringing leftovers to work may be practical but keep in mind that reheated fish overpowers the entire office. Candles and air freshener cannot mask the odor. Even popcorn can be off-putting when a client walks through the door and is greeted by a strong whiff of buttered corn. Think respectfully when selecting and reheating your meal at work.
Don't answer a phone call at the table. Unless it's an absolute emergency, turn your cell phone off and keep it out of sight. Your technology is NOT part of the table setting and sends the message that you are more interested in a call or message you might be missing than the present moment. The most important person is the one sitting in front of you at the lunch table.
Everyone is busy on a workday, but everyone also needs to eat. If you choose the rights foods at the right time and place, refueling in the middle of the day won't isolate you from coworkers or offend a client or your boss.