Food for thought

PUBLISHED: 11:55 18 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:11 06 May 2010

FOOD is on the Perspective menu this week. My mind turned to the changing eating habits at work when I noticed a colleague eating soup with what appeared to be a fork. Perhaps this was a variation of the old eating peas with a knife scenario - something n

FOOD is on the Perspective menu this week.

My mind turned to the changing eating habits at work when I noticed a colleague eating soup with what appeared to be a fork.

Perhaps this was a variation of the old eating peas with a knife scenario - something near impossible to do and therefore advisable to avoid.

So I made a tentative inquiry of my colleague - on the lines of "Don't you know you can't eat soup with a fork" - but he enlightened me with the news that the cunning device was a spork which can be supplied with fast food.

The trick with it, apparently, was to eat the soup with the spoon bit of the thing rather than the fork side.

He was responding to his pangs of hunger at his desk, which made me reflect on how things used to be.

When I began employment back in the Middle Ages - well it was technology wise with reporters bashing out stories on ancient typewriters and the carefully crafted tales going off to the compositors to be keyed in again on the hot metal machines - the norm at lunchtime was to go out for an often leisurely repast in a local hostelry or restaurant.

Some members of staff for economic, anti-social or dietary reasons may occasionally have taken in a sandwich box but it was unusual for people to eat at their desks.

Now it is very much the usual in our high speed world of work.

Going out to the pub is often restricted to when someone leaves, and even then the senders-off can be seen checking their watches with a worried look on their faces.

And well they might.

According to a survey unveiled this week, millions of workers are forgoing their lunch hour in a bid to appease their bosses.

With a large portion of guilt, UK employers are taking a serious bite out of their staff's allowed time off for scoffing.

On the eve of British Sandwich Week, it is revealed that the average employee works through almost two lunch hours a week, while over a tenth never take any time for lunch at all.

They know without being told that 35 per cent of employers "would prefer" staff to eat lunch in the office to save time - and a quarter make their employees feel guilty for taking a lengthy lunch break.

But the survey claimed that it is an obligation to their colleagues that keep 38 per cent of workers chained to their desks.

In what has been dubbed al desko dining, sandwiches easily top the list of lunchtime favourites with 77 per cent of workers preferring them. Chicken is the most popular filling, followed by cheese and ham.

A psychologist is quoted as saying: "If eating lunch at their desks helps employees to keep on top of their work and reduce their stress levels, this can only be a good thing."

Thanks very much, but I prefer the old ways so I'm off to the pub for a late lunch.

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