SURVEY SAYS: Where Do You Eat Lunch?

May 15, 2003 ( - Maybe it's the approach of warmer weather, perhaps the passage of looming deadlines - or maybe I'm just hungry. This week we asked readers how they were spending their lunch "hour."

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that more than half (nearly 56%) of this week’s respondents “dined” at their desks on most of the past 30 days.   For most, that was either a necessity, a trade-off for being able to get home a bit earlier (“It seems like we are in a perpetual state of being behind and if I want to see my children then it’s the only time left to grab.” ) or engage in other activities (one reader said, “I eat at my desk, prior to lunch, so I can play my guitar at lunch!”) , or, as one reader put it, “It’s been this way since graduating from college in 1984.”


One desk eater noted, “Lately I’ve been eating at my desk, and it’s not often healthy.   As the saying goes… “If we are what we eat, I’m either fast, cheap, or easy. Here’s hoping things calm down a bit over the summer.”

After that, responses were spread all over the place.   “Eating out” was the second-most cited, by roughly 11%, while another 8% opted for a cafeteria meal, and 6% ate in the office (but away from their desk, such as the reader who said, “I don’t sit at my desk because I’ve got to move around to keep the aches and pains moderately under control.”   

Nearly 6% said they had not had time to eat, and about 5% said they had done something other than eat at their lunch (running, reading, shopping, and errands were popular), while 4.3% said they hadn’t even had time to think about eating.   Many noted how important that “break” was to their productivity and stress management.   One said , “I eat out every workday with two or three of my coworkers.   We discuss lives and issues outside the workplace, and generally laugh and have a good time.   There is no substitute to this daily reminder that there is more to life than the job.”   

Three percent opted for a response I hadn’t contemplated, “all of the above,” including this reader: “As I read your survey today I was forced to answer Yes to each of the questions.   I’m sure my Mother would be quite upset with my eating habits.”

One reader who had been eating in the cafeteria noted, “…and have you noticed that the people who don’t have time to eat, a lot of times, it doesn’t show?”   A possible explanation might be found in this reader’s response: “In our office we think non-stop about eating.   Eating is the way to break up the day, say goodbye, say hello, say congratulations, say thank you.   Any occasion, large or small, is a reason for eating. Thursday is dip and chip day, Friday is breakfast burrito day, etc.   Many of us walk during our lunch break; it’s the only time we get away from the food.”  

Another has discovered a “unique” way to deal with the problem: ” I get my food intravenously.   So I never have to leave my desk.”

Not that readers always have control over their lunch schedules.   One noted, “I try to take a later lunch hour, as a lot of employees think that the only time they can come to HR is during their lunch.”   Or the reader who said, “All of the above!   Every day is different…. you never know what will come up at Noon!”

NewsDash is apparently a frequent lunchtime companion for a number of readers, including this reader who noted,“I am eating lunch at my desk reading NewsDash.   Thank you for providing the entertainment!”

But this week’sEditor’s Choicewent to the reader who observed, “I eat at my desk, but really, some days I feel I’ve been eaten BY my desk.”

Generally, I am a B.   A coworker or two and I share a brief 30 - 45 minutes for lunch in the break room on our floor several times a week.   At least once a week, I eat at my desk because I can't find a lunch partner (and I won't eat in the break room alone).   And once a week, usually on Tuesdays, several of us get together and go out for lunch.   We picked Tuesdays because the local Fuddruckers offers us a 20% discount on Tuesdays.   Not that we always go there, but it's nice to have that option when we DO go out on Tuesday.

Answer is "a". But I guess my question to you is why you didn't ask where we ate breakfast and dinner?

I'm eating breakfast at my desk right now - just like I do every day.   Many folks here eat breakfast at work.   When I eat dinner at work, I kick myself for not having a life.

Have a sparkling day and thanks for being part of my breakfast routine.

I eat at my desk, prior to lunch, so I can play my guitar at lunch!

Well you asked -- in fact, over the past 18 months or so I have found that if I don't bring most of my daily food with me I won't really have or won't want to take the time to go out and get lunch.   The reasons -- since 9/11 my commute has gotten longer as the trains slowed so much (who knows exactly why) and the pace of business has quickened.   Further, I am reluctant to "waste' any time on lunch because I want to maximize my in-office time so I can get home and see my family for a few hours each day. Last, I have gotten pickier and pickier over the years about what I eat and so much purchased food is filled with salt, fat and other additives that I don't want in my daily diet. So in my backpack, I carry 2-3 pieces of fruit and usually a homemade salad. Desperate alternatives -- we have so many meetings in our office that often there are leftovers (bagels and muffins from breakfast) and sandwiches from lunch!   Pretty much the only time I vary is when I have a business meeting or the weather is so nice that I must go out and walk for 15 minutes or so.

A.   It seems like we are in a perpetual state of being behind and if I want to see my children then it's the only time left to grab.

I eat at my desk. Yes, I know it's a sad way to live.

a) Eaten at my desk....and the IT employee who installed a new keyboard for me yesterday did not appreciate all the crumbs I left in the old one!!

a.   eating at my desk, as always for my entire career.   They should have a mobile roach coach (golf cart size) that makes stops at the offices and cubicles to feed the hungry qualified plan professionals.   Mondays could be a sushi cart and mini hibachi table.  

I eat at my desk every day - usually while working.

a. At my desk.   But today I am actually going to go to the local Burger King, but only because it is close to my bank and mortgage company.  

I'm a detective on the …..Police Department, and I serve as Chairman of the Police Pension Fund.   I've been receiving the News Dash for quite some time, and always enjoy the daily synopsis of financial events.

This is the first time I've responded to one of your surveys.

The one choice you left out was "ALL OF THE ABOVE."

As I read your survey today I was forced to answer Yes to each of the questions.   I'm sure my Mother would be quite upset with my eating habits.

I also always enjoy the Friday stories of assorted people's unusual events.   Keep up the good work.   Have a great day.  

I bring my breakfast and lunch to work from home.   Breakfast is eaten at my desk and lunch is eaten in the cafeteria.

d - eaten out, it seems that there is a certain passion about food at our company - the lunch hour is a pretty sacred ritual around here.

I have recently been fairly good at going to the gym on my lunch hour and then eating my lunch at my desk (while reading emails, trade publications and preparing for meetings) afterwards.

About 6 weeks ago, I accepted a new position in the firm.   Before, I traveled a great deal - by car- throughout the Midwest.   Although I often did not eat lunch at "lunchtime" - I did get something to eat when I was hungry.   The new position is inside - no more 500 miles a day - but the workload is horrendous.   Now I work 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM and have no time for lunch.   I think it's a case of "out of the frying pan."   To make matters worse, this new job is one that was previously done by one person who ended up working 6-1/2 days a week to get the work done.   When they split the job, they added more responsibilities under the mistaken notion that if two of us were going to do what one person had done before, we would have too much "free time'!!!   On the bright side, I am losing weight!

(f) done something else. Almost 10 years ago, I started running on my lunch hour. I had been a "work right through lunch person" until that time. My day is longer because of the hour I take to run, but my afternoon is so much more productive. Honestly, most days I don't leave work while I'm running. Instead, I'm thinking about a project or problem I was facing that morning or reprioritizing my "to do list" while I run. The fresh air is wonderful "brain food." I run outside year round, which can   be a bit challenging in the winter in Northeast Ohio.

(a) Most of the time I eat something light at my desk.   That way I can get out of work a little earlier and head out to swim or bike ride or whatever else to work off some energy.

I take a walk of two miles for a half hour and then lunch at my desk.

Every day at lunch I drive home (3 miles) to have lunch with my wife and 2-year-old daughter, no matter what is happening in the office. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Go for a 20 minute walk then eat at my desk.   🙂

A) eaten at my desk. Have the crumbs to prove it!

d) Eat out. Because driving to a nearby Subway is less expensive, healthier and faster than eating at the deli in the building, and because skipping meals isn't healthy.

Definitely (a), we have a cafeteria on site, which means I can make the roundtrip back to my desk in less than 10 minutes (assuming that I know what I want to eat and that there are no lines - which there usually aren't at 1:30 when I finally realize that I'm starving!).

First off, I always have to eat - something. If I don't, I get grumpy (ask my husband who only typically eats 1 meal a day - dinner). Now, I would have to say (a) is my primary response for a total of 5 minutes. So, would (e) fall into this category too, probably not because I did eat something like an apple. But, given the stress of this time of year (er.... all year), I try to (b) corral other members of my group into eating in our conference room at least once every other week for some "let's get away from our computers/phone/people" time.

b, eat in the office

Always a yogurt, milk, and half a muffin--pretty inexpensive (albeit a bit boring), and I'm done in under 10 minutes, even if I stop and chat with a co-worker. I don't sit at my desk because I've got to move around to keep the aches and pains moderately under control.

(e) not had time to eat

Let's put it this way-when I scarf down my dinner at night in no time flat-my husband can usually tell if I had time to eat. 🙂

(c) in our cafeteria,   and have you notice the people who don't have time to eat, a lot of times, it doesn't show.

A) Eaten at my desk - but usually, I'm browsing the Internet or writing personal letters.

Most often we eat in the office. We go out and grab something and bring it back and actually socialize with our co-workers. We have a great group of 4 or 5 co-workers who eat 3 or 4 times per week together in a vacant conference room. We tell stories, cover current events, TV shows, etc. Pretty much everything but hold hands and sing Kumbaya!

All of the above!   Every day is never know what will come up at Noon!

I would answer (c) -- at the cafeteria.   After a particularly hellish project that nearly had me in divorce court and the psychiatrist's office, I made a conscious decision to take a lunch at some time during the day and AWAY from the phone, fax, and e-mail.   It helps me to re-focus.   It also doesn't make the time after 5 as painful....

Past 30 days, how about the last couple of years.   I've have taken to the "Lug a Lunch" concept and eating at my desk!

My theory on lunch when the weather is nice is to take 30 minutes and relax while eating in the lunch room...that way I can get out of here much earlier at the end of the day and actually enjoy the weather, not just tease myself with a nice day at lunch!  

somewhere between a) and g)....this is supposed to be the quiet season for employee benefits, but we are in the midst of an acquisition so there is much to do.   That said, now that the weather is warming up, I will eat at my desk at noon and walk at 3 to keep the productivity juices flowing.

a,b,d,e,f, and almost can tell I really have a fixed routine!

For the most part I eat at my desk while surfing the net for Pension news and information.   Occasionally, I venture out to the office break room for lunch.   However, yesterday I treated myself to a quick shopping trip to a nearby mall during my lunch hour.   Unfortunately, I will have to eat at my desk for the next 30 days to recover from the shopping trip!

h. (how appropriate) eaten at home. I live 6 minutes from work.

response to today's survey - most of the time I have eaten at my desk.   However, there have been a few days where I have gone out to eat and taken along a good book to read while I ate - but my lunch was still shorter than the usual hour I am allotted for lunch.

Congratulations on the 10th Anniversary of Plan sponsor.   I find Plan Sponsor's information an excellent source for my day to day education and update on important issues.

ANSWER TO SURVEY: C. Eaten in cafeteria.

Are you implying that some people actually go out to eat?   Lucky stiffs.   I'm deskbound with a non-messy sandwich.  

On most of the past 360 days I've (a) eaten at my desk not because I want to either.   It just seems that there is never enough time to get all the work done that needs to be done.

(a) when I've had time to eat, which implies that (e) also applies on many days, and on occasion (g) certainly applies.

[So, I ask myself, why am I not losing weight?   Because of eating late in the day when I finally get home and then eating too much of the wrong stuff.]

I have (a) eaten at my desk at least half of the time in the last 30 days.   We have a cafeteria, but it is expensive and most of the entrees are not as healthy as I prefer.   When I don't bring my lunch, I go out, usually to run errands and drive through somewhere.

I (f) do something else, exercise at lunch, then I (c) get something from the cafeteria and (a) eat it at my desk while I work.   I'm never (e) too busy to eat.

In our office we think non-stop about eating.   Eating is the way to break up the day, say goodbye, say hello, say congratulations, say thank you.   Any occasion large or small is a reason for eating. Thursday is dip and chip day, Friday is breakfast burrito day, etc.   Many of us walk during our lunch break, it's the only time we get away from the food.  

Since I've switched careers and started working for myself as a consultant, I haven't had time to really even think about lunch most days so I guess my choice is "g".   The work is fun, but my new boss is a bear!   You would think that I would be losing weight, but sorry to say this hasn't happened.   I also don't have time to exercise and not eating lunch means I am probably snacking in the afternoon on junk food.   The bad thing about my day is that I often have to put off reading the NewsDash until later in the day or week, which means I am not benefiting as I should from your publication.   I need to reprioritize my day so, if I can't get to it in the morning, I read NewsDash while I eat lunch at my desk!

It seems that I'm eating at my desk more often than not.   Why?   I'm coaching Kelsey's softball team and, weather permitting, we practice two times a week.   And of course there's work.   We've been going through audits in addition to our regular work.   Not much fun there!

(a) eaten at my desk

for the following reasons:

  • to catch up on reading NewsDash
  • to avoid the social office "clicks"
  • to surf the web news/and catch up on personal email
  • and to work so I can leave on time

Eaten in the office.   No matter how busy, I always take a little time at lunch to break up the day.   May be on my own or with a colleague but I get far more done the rest of the day if I have a break.

Fortunately, my employer provides a free lunch Monday through Thursday. From what I've seen of my co-workers the company benefits greatly from the free lunch because workers never leave the building, eat at their desk while working and usually take less than 30 minutes for a lunch break. I, on the other hand, eat in the cafeteria (c) to get a break from my cluttered office and desk. I think everyone needs a timeout during the day.

I eat out every workday with two or three of my coworkers.   We discuss lives and issues outside the workplace, and generally laugh and have a good time.   There is no substitute to this daily reminder that there is more to life than the job.

I usually eat lunch at my desk.    I use to eat out often, but it gets old fast.   Plus, I like having some "quiet time" to do work while everyone's at lunch.

It's got to be about 50-50 between b) and d).   I try to go out at lunch with coworkers that I don't see often to keep the relationship going, but spend about half the time eating in...mostly for work reasons.

On most of the past 30 days I have   an even split between (a) eaten at your desk and (b) eaten in the office.   I try to get away from the desk to eat, even if it is for one half hour or less.   I also try to take a later lunch hour, as a lot of employees think that the only time they can come to HR is during their lunch.   I try to get out at least once a week, even if only to run errands.   We need the downtime to clear our heads!

I used to work for a VP who would get interrupted so much on the job that the muffin he picked up for breakfast at the bakery on the building's first floor would only be half eaten by lunch.  

Let's be honest -   No one we know takes an hour long lunch break to stroll through the streets on a beautiful day.   But since I start thinking about what I am going to eat for lunch at about the time I sit down at my desk in the morning, I certainly don't avoid lunch either.   Usually, it consists of running out to the closest place to grab something I wouldn't usually eat if you paid me and then running back to my desk where I shove my face while others still try to talk to me.   Attractive picture, ain't it?

I almost always eat at my desk. If I'm not eating at my desk, I'm running errands on my lunch hour (e.g. grocery shopping, etc.)

I used to eat at my desk all the time without taking a break. That, of course, just added to the already unbearable stress.   I have since taken a new job, relocated and changed my approach to lunch.   Now I try to always take a break unless I am having a lunch meeting.   I usually eat my main meal at lunch and a light dinner so lunch is important to my physical and mental well being.   It's the one thing I do for myself each day.   I eat usually eat with the staff which I love because it keeps in tune with what's going on in their lives, their thoughts and concerns.   Although I have to admit, we usually don't talk business!

Generally finding time to take lunch is a challenge, between meetings and deadlines, however I have made it a priority to take my lunch hour and spend the time working off my stress rather than feeding it!   This has been going on for a about four years and I'm not always successful in taking lunch, however in the past couple of weeks, instead of hitting the gym, as is my normal routine, a co-worker and I are hitting the streets!   We average about 4-4.5 miles in the 60 minutes we have allotted!   Our efforts are paying off, as noted by some passers by with honks and what not, however yesterday our determination to be healthy wasn't appreciated by passenger in one car, because as they passed they honked and flipped us off!   (Note they were coming from restaurant row! - Hmmmmm - I think their lunch must not have agreed with them!)

e) not had time to eat -- and it's a great way to lose those few extra pounds as we get ready for the beach and upcoming SPARK Conference (lots of activity around the pool) 🙂

Eaten at my desk. Unless I've been out of the office on business, where I've eaten at somebody else's desk.

Our company provides free lunch to all associates in a very convenient cafeteria.   So I, and the vast majority of the 150 others in our office, eat in the cafeteria.   Of course some [anti-social] people take their food back to their desks.

A - eaten at my desk

Our company has a once-a-week hot lunch and a tiny cafeteria.   There is no place to eat and socialize with co-workers.   I have a desk and chair that is more than the production people, so I don't take a spot in our tiny cafeteria.

I would love to have a place that had enough room that everyone felt welcomed.   In my last place of business, anyone could and did sit together -- from the president to a file clerk.   There was a great sharing of ideas.

Most days it's (a) -- eat at my desk.   Usually I've purchased food from our cafeteria, but I bring it back to my desk! Very boring!!

D , F, and then A.   I go out to get something to eat, try and get errands done (with only a few accomplished) and get back to work just in time to get back to work.   So then I end up eating at my desk.   Not very relaxing...

I find myself eating at my desk far too often.   I will run out to buy lunch and bring it back to the office.   Sometimes, I do get to shut my door and do some recreational reading while I eat; sometimes my reading is from one of the countless articles or papers stacked all around me.

It's really odd around here that a lot of people lunch alone.   I have made a deliberate effort to establish a few "lunch pals" this year and it really helps to talk and laugh and just get away from the office for a little while.  

Our department training manager has recently started to have relaxation sessions twice a week during the lunch hour and the one I went to was "heaven".   Twenty minutes in a totally dark room with a group of other workers listening to a tape of a mellow-voiced man telling me how to release the tension from my head to my!   I plan on doing that as often as I can.

I would have to say (f) followed by (a).   We are fortunate that a small gym opened in our building in December 2002 and our company was offered a grand opening deal of no initiation fee.   A co-worker and I took advantage of the offer and joined.   We usually go during lunch (averaging 4 days a week), then come back and eat at our desks while getting back to our work routine.   It's a great stress reliever, and gives us energy to finish the day refreshed.   Plus, it is a good example for others that the benefits department is practicing what it preaches - wellness!   And for anyone who's wondering about what we did before the gym opened, we still ate at our desks!

Lunch hour?   what a luxury!   We get a quick 30 minutes in the company cafeteria (can't leave the building since it's only a half-hour).   Given that, most lunches are spent eating & working at my desk.   However I do have an office with a nice view so I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.   Now if I could just get the window to open.....

Lunch about lunch minutes.   

We usually eat at our desk, by choice, as we are watching our "calories."       Not as tempted to over-do the fat grams if we bring a healthy menu from home.    

Having spent many years of 'blowing through' lunch and not eating any, I ran myself headlong into serious blood sugar problems.   Not good.   Now, working so very close to home, my husband and I manage to chow together - otherwise, without him, left to my own devices, again, I'll choose to work through and not eat...amazing how much work gets done when the rest of the world is 'out to lunch.

(a) eaten at my desk.   I'm doing Atkins, so it's easier for me to bring my lunch from home and eat at my desk.   Working downtown and trying to find a place for lunch that serves decent food under $15 can be a challenge.   I spend my lunch hour doing my personal business (paying bills, making phone calls, etc.)    On especially busy days, I simply get an extra hour of work in and go home on time.   I'd much rather sacrifice my lunch hour and get out at a decent hour than work late.   My dogs really don't like it if I come home late - it's kind of hard to hold it for 10-11 hours.  

A eaten at my desk

The only exceptions are 1) an occasional   eating in the cafeteria while having a meeting that neither of us can "fit in" any other way and 2) a once every month or 2 lunch out with a coworker.

I always brought my lunch (why not?).   The savings was part of the down payment to the first house I bought (two years after I came to this country with a few hundred dollars and working clerical job).

Due to our customer base - I always eat at my desk. Most of my clients are teachers and it is nearly impossible for me to call them at an "opportune time"...therefore, they call me whenever they have a free moment.   I do TRY to take a "mental break" during my day ... and surf the net for about a half hour while eating a soft lunch.   (It has to be soft in case the phone rings...can't be crunching in someone's ear!)

I'm definitely (C).   I take a one hour lunch every day and get away from my desk.   Always have.

(a) eaten at your desk

I find that most of the time lunch is my best time to work - everybody else is out and I can get the most work...until they storm the door at 4:59

I am going to give you an answer that is not on your list.

I am fortunate enough to live 1.1 miles from work. Therefore, I have the luxury of going home for lunch most days. I spend most of my days having a quiet lunch while reading my mail and/or listening to Rush Limbaugh. Just in case you are wondering, no, I have no problem keeping my lunch down while listening to Rush.

I find it very important to get away from the office during the day and lunchtime is when I do that. Skipping lunch is not an option since I do not eat breakfast. It is also nice that I don't have to fork over any cold hard cash in my own kitchen.

(A) Lately I've been eating at my desk, and it's not often healthy.   As the saying goes... "If we are what we eat, I'm either fast, cheap or easy." Here's hoping things calm down a bit over the summer.

It's a bad habit, but I eat at my desk more often than not.

Lunch hour: none of the above. I live close enough to the office to eat lunch at home. It's great! It really breaks up the day.

How 'bout a 50/50 split between eating at my desk or the cafeteria?   It's a vast improvement over past jobs and I made a conscious decision when I started here to actually take a lunch break.   This is a new development and long overdue.

While I'm responding, I'll take this moment to remind you--go eat now if you haven't yet!

My answer is A and read NewsDash from Plansponsor like I'm doing right now.

a tiny bit of (a).   Actually mostly (e) and (g).

I get my food intravenously.   So I never have to leave my desk.

On most of the past 30 days have you (a) eaten at your desk. It's been this way since graduating from college in 1984.

I am eating lunch at my desk reading NewsDash.   Thank you for providing the entertainment!

I usually (b), by buying my food at (c) and then (a).

(a) But that's the norm for me.   Our offices are in a "not so great" part of town so if you eat somewhere close by you better leave the car motor running in case a quick escape is needed.    We do have a cafeteria that is actually quite nice but generally I'm too lazy to walk over and find it easier to go down the hall and heat up something in the microwave…..

In response to your survey on lunch in today's News Dash, my answer is (d) eaten out. I eat out every day. That's my way to pamper myself for having to work. I think it improves my attitude to get away from my desk for a while every day and I enjoy the companionship of visiting with a friend at the same time.

My honest answer is somewhere between (e) not had time to eat AND (g) not had time to think about eating.   But today will be a first.   During my lunch hour I'll be closing on the sale of my house and making $10k in the process.   Now, if I could just do that on a more regular per-hour basis, ...well I probably wouldn't be missing lunch anymore, now would I?

In reply - "A" - a meal away from the desk is a rare treat.

Re. the lunch hour issue, I never 'take' a lunch hour - or half hour - I always eat at my desk.   My job is not governed by a time clock, so I'm relatively free to come or go as I wish - but mostly I stay and work... easier than coming back after an hour and finding 30 voice mails, and 50 e-mails to catch up on....   thinking about that would certainly give me indigestion, big time....

Survey reply:   It is a), but really, some days I feel I've been eaten BY my desk.

I've been so busy today, this is the first chance I've had to read the Dash!!   My answer to your lunch question is:   Lunch?   What's that???

When I do eat, I usually eat at my desk....not a very good habit to be in, but, what can one do?

I started off here as the receptionist 8 months ago, and now I seem to be the only one who can handle 'special projects!'   They are coming fast and furious!!

I'll be curious to see your responses in tomorrow's Dash---I hope I get to read it!

I have the pleasure of living walking distance to the office.   While sometimes answers a, b, or d apply, in actuality I have a new category...h) sitting in my living room watching Comedy Central...a welcome mental vacation in the middle of the day.

The lunch hour is often abbreviated.   I'm fortunate enough, however, to live seconds from my office.   In 15 minutes, I can prepare and eat my lunch, let the dog out, change the laundry, and be back to work. Lucky me.   (or should I say, lucky employer?)

I eat at my desk so I can read all the enewsletters that are sent to me like Plan Sponsor, Benefit News Connect and Benefits Link. After I eat and read, I go outside for a 15 -30 minute walk along the waterfront in beautiful downtown Tacoma, WA. Research and exercise are two good uses of the lunch hour.