Return of the Happy Desk Lunch: Office Workers Revive a Workplace Ritual

Man enjoying a healthy lunch at his desk while working

According to a recent survey by Opinium for Massachusetts-based Little Leaf Farms, 76% of in-office workers report eating lunch at their desks at least several days a week. Instead of playing into the “sad desk lunch” memes portraying desk meals as depressing, however, desk-bound diners appear to be embracing the practice.

“Somewhere along the lines, the desk salad got seriously maligned and became the symbol of a less-than-stellar office lunch experience. We’re here to change that perception. Little Leaf Farms is just as serious about leveling up lunchtime as we are about growing a longer-lasting, fresher, more sustainable lettuce,” says Jeannie Hannigan, Senior Brand Manager at Little Leaf Farms.

The survey also uncovered a wide range of reasons why many corporate workers choose to prepare, transport, store, and consume their own meals rather than spend their lunch hour at local eateries or company cafeterias.

The Convenience and Productivity Factor

Among the 68% of survey participants who preferred desk lunches, 56% cited convenience as their primary reason. Leaving the office for a mid-day meal is often frustrating, from the limited time to the logistics of reaching a suitable destination. Consuming a prepared meal at their desks eliminated many negatives associated with a traditional business lunch at a local restaurant.

Another 43% revealed they felt more productive when they brought their own meals from home or consumed take-out dishes at their desks. Some preferred having the ability to continue performing work while eating, while others spent less time off the clock by returning to their duties sooner.

Healthiness and Economics Play a Role

73% of office workers planned to bring their lunch to work just as often, or even more often, in 2024. This response is most likely related to other personal health or financial resolutions. 68% perceived prepared desk lunches as healthier than fast food or cafeteria options. Consuming more salads, soups, and other nutritious meals at work meshed with other lifestyle changes, such as starting a fitness program or cutting back on unhealthy snacks.

Another compelling argument for a return to the desk lunch is basic economics. Foods prepared from home can be meal-prepped and portioned-controlled, which saves money on potential waste. Typical lunch staples such as sandwiches, salads, and frozen entrees are cheaper than their restaurant equivalents. Gen Z office workers (68%) were more likely to bring their work lunches from home as a cost-saving measure.

Eating Is Better Than Meeting?

67% of those surveyed reported having a lunchtime meeting scheduled at least once a week. Almost half of that group said they were okay with an occasional urgent meeting. At the same time, 33% felt the practice was universally rude.

Gen Z and Gen X (38% each) were more likely to consider lunchtime meetings especially rude than millennials (32%). Women (36%) were also more likely than men (28%) to consider scheduling these mid-day meetings intrusive on personal time.

Nearly half of the survey participants shared they were more likely to multitask and eat a meal during a scheduled lunch hour meeting. If the meeting involved video conferencing, only 7% claimed they kept their camera active while eating. 58% considered the practice inconsiderate, while 49% turned off their cameras for privacy while enjoying lunch.

It’s Not Just Frozen Dinners or Mystery Tubs Anymore

Before the pandemic, office breakrooms featured refrigerators with labeled (or unlabeled) food containers, a communal microwave, and a beverage station. The return to the office movement has created a need to update this model. Food companies are tapping into this new demand for desk-ready meals that require minimal preparation and leave a smaller footprint after consumption.

Little Leaf Farms has created a limited-edition “Happy Desk Lunch” kit to add personal touches to an otherwise perfunctory lunch break. This kit includes a battery-powered desktop candelabra, a customized placemat, a water bottle chiller, a napkin, and eating utensils. The meal is a complete vegetarian Caesar salad with baby green leaf lettuce, garlic croutons, shredded parmesan cheese, and Romano Caesar dressing.

Maximizing the “Happy Desk Lunch” Experience

Little Leaf Farms collaborated with office expert and TikTok influencer Corporate Natalie to create friendly guidelines for getting the most out of the desk lunch ritual.

Because a lunch break is intended to be a personal disconnect from the office environment, Corporate Natalie suggests setting definite boundaries with employers and co-workers. A 30-minute block of time needs to be established and respected. There should be no scheduled meetings or other business-related duties during that time.

Investing in healthier meals like a complete salad kit is also an excellent way to maintain the energy needed for a stressful workday. When meal time is limited, minimal prep time and minimal clean-up are also good ideas.

Finally, a desk lunch can be something other than a sterile or perfunctory experience. Creating an energizing atmosphere filled with good music and a customized place setting will help desk-bound office workers take a mental breather while enjoying a quick meal.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Travel Binger.

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Charmaine is the blogger behind LuvMeKitchen. She is extremely passionate about health and wellness. She writes about healthy eating and hopes to inspire others via her blog. She loves working out, hiking, and being anywhere near the water when she is not tinkering around in the kitchen.

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