Open plan workspaces – food manners

Page contents

Open plan workspace – food manners​

If you share a desk or work closely with others it is respectful to not eat meals at your desk.​

Some smells can be offensive and overwhelming for others. In an open plan space, smells can be magnified. ​

Eating away from your desk gives you a break from work and minimizes any impact on your colleagues.​

If you are not sure what your workplace policy is for eating at your desk you should ask your manager or someone that you work with.

These foods should be avoided in the work environment and should only be eaten away from your desk, for example in the lunchroom:

  • Seafood, and seafood products (for example fish sauce, dried fish)​
  • Fermented foods​
  • Smelly cheeses​
  • Boiled eggs​
  • Onion, garlic, cabbage​
  • Spicy foods, curry​
  • Microwaveable popcorn​
  • Pizza​

Avoid noisy foods that involve crunching and or slurping at your desk as those can be distracting for colleagues.​

If in doubt you could ask if it is offensive or distracting. Then respect your colleagues’ opinions.​

Minimise unscheduled food breaks. It is usual to have no more than one coffee break in a 3- to 5-hour shift. You will usually only have one meal break of half an hour or more if your shift is more than 5 hours.​

​Keep your workspace clean. It is important to keep your workspace clear of dirty dishes. You should not leave food or food wrappers all over your desk. 

Watch a 2-minute open plan office etiquette video.

End of Module Questions

  • Why is it important to think about your colleagues when bringing food into the workplace?​
  • How would you handle a situation where you observed one of your colleagues not following the rules with food etiquette?​
  • What smells do you find offensive?​
  • Would you be confident telling your manager that you were finding a smell overwhelming and distracting?​

Download alternative formats