Britain’s biggest lunchtime taboos revealed

New survey reveals six of the biggest lunchtime taboos that can cripple productivity.

Nearly half of UK professionals believe that there are six lunchtime taboos that you should avoid at work. This is according to the latest research from CV-Library, which surveyed 1,000 workers to explore their attitudes towards eating habits in the workplace.

When asked what they believe to be the biggest lunchtime taboos, respondents listed the six below.

  • Drinking alcohol on your lunch break (39 per cent)
  • Eating smelly food (36.8 per cent)
  • Making a mess of the shared kitchen (32.2 per cent)
  • Eating too unhealthily (28.2 per cent)
  • Not taking a lunch break at all (25.4 per cent)
  • Taking too long on your lunch break (22 per cent)

Drinking alcohol at lunch was identified as the top workplace taboo, which coincides with Lloyd’s of London’s alcohol ban, preventing staff from drinking during work hours.

According to CV-Library’s Lee Biggins, what you eat may be down to personal choice, but it’s clear that there are certain faux pas that professionals find hard to ignore. “We spend a great deal of our time at work, and if your lunchtime habits are having a negative impact on your colleagues it could be time to rethink your choices. Not only this, but drinking alcohol, taking a long lunch break or even not taking one at all can also have damaging effect on your productivity,” he said.

The study also encouraged respondents to share their experiences of lunchtime blunders. CV-Library pulled out the top ten.

  • Katie from Guildford said: I once had fish for lunch and I re-heated it in the microwave, it made the whole office smell and everyone knew it was me – I was so embarrassed!
  • Thomas from Glasgow: I was working in a factory a few years ago and one of my colleagues came back from the pub, a little worse for drink, and severely injured himself on a rotating band-saw.
  • James from Manchester: We had a contractor in last year and he decided to turn the toaster on its side in an attempt to cook cheese on toast, and it caught on fire…
  • Megan from Winchester: We had a colleague who always stole other people’s food, we all knew who it was but no one wanted to confront them.
  • Chris from Wolverhampton: A lady in my office eats and talks at the same time, and she barely takes a breath in between. It can be messy and is definitely not a pretty sight!
  • Tammy from Leeds: I opened a yoghurt at my desk and it spilled all over my keyboard and in between the keys – my manager was furious.
  • Lauren from Kidderminster: It was my first day at my new job and during the lunch break I was forced into a chilli eating competition as part of my induction.
  • Simon from Milton Keynes: I work with a man in his 50s who still has his mum make his sandwiches for him every day. And every day he unwraps the tinfoil and says “oh no she’s made me ham butties again!”
  • Isaac from Hull: My colleagues go out drinking at lunchtime and then have to sleep it off in the print room.
  • Jayne from Newport: During lunch some of my colleagues would eat so much that they would go and take a nap in the toilet stall afterwards.

According to senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, Dr Sandi Mann, your personality can be determined by what you eat for lunch and how you spend your lunch break. The simple act of opting for an early or late lunch, away from or at your desk, is actually a giveaway sign as to whether you’re outgoing or a stickler for tradition.

Dr Mann developed a quiz to provide a glimpse into what your lunch break says about you by analysing possible subconscious motives that might underlie what appear to be the simplest of choices. This led to the development of a matrix that aimed to map lunch options and lunch break habits onto specific personality dimensions. By plotting these dimension traits onto broader personality styles, a lunchtime personality typology emerged.

“How we spend our lunch breaks, and indeed what we choose to eat, might seem intuitive but the fact is, we each individually make a series of choices at lunchtime that are based on learnt preferences, attitudes and self-discipline, which can all underscore your personality type,” she explained.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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