Friday Poll: Desk eating

Jul 13 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

A quick question today related to the behavior of individuals who come by your desk during lunch. I often find myself eating at my desk while reading over something. I'm not always doing work, I often use the 15 minutes or so it takes me to eat my lunch as an opportunity to catch up on sports, news or blogs. But it is not uncommon for people to visit my office during this time.

One alternative is to close and not answer more door, but I rarely do that. This leads to interactions where people come to talk to me about something before noticing that I am eating.

If this is a common experience for you, how do you find people react? Do they say they will come back later or carry on as though they would if you were not eating? Does it vary based on student vs. faculty? Your lab vs. not your lab? Etc....?

16 responses so far

  • sciwo says:

    I tend to close my door while eating at my desk. Then if someone does knock, I have time to finish chewing or close the container or whatever before beginning to interact with them. Usually, it's students and usually they are apologetic for interrupting, but they continue to do so anyway.

  • Pascale says:

    I close my door. If it's reallly important, they can still get to me.

  • scicurious says:

    I share an office, so closing the door is not so much an option. At first boss said he'd come back later, but now he just keeps talking. No one has ever apologized for keeping on, though.

  • Dr. O says:

    My door is almost always closed because my office is across from a noisy gathering area, especially around lunch time. So people knock, and I ask them to come in. Faculty and administrative staff almost always apologize and start to walk away, (unless I stop them because I have something to ask/tell them too). Students from my lab, as with sciwo's experience, apologize yet continue to interrupt. The n is currently too small to make a generatlization for students outside my lab.

  • Maybe it's a cultural thing because I have no problem chatting with people while eating at my desk. I also prefer if people do interrupt me at that time because I'm not usually doing important stuff during lunch, unlike the entire rest of the day. One of my students though stops eating when I go to have a conversation with them at their desk during lunch. In fact they stop eating their lunch if I talk to them while we are having lunch out together with people.

  • chall says:

    I can't close a door and I usually eat at my desk (lately at least since it leaves me more relaxed than the "open space" which is too chatty) but it doesn't seem to stop people from asking me things. I usually stop eating, address their questions and then continue eating... most often than not if it's a long winded question/debate they ask to come back, if it's something quick they go on. It works for me, unless I'm eating soup (then again, I usually don't eat soup at my desk since I can be sloppy 😉 )

  • LD says:

    My labbies are not allowed to eat at their desks (university policy about eating in labs), so I don't eat at my desk. We have a small lunch room that is shared between two labs. It's a great time to chat about various things, including science.

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    I shut the door to my office. Most folks are apologetic and won't stick around unless I tell them OK--this is the same whether they are in my lab or not.

  • This happened to me a lot in my last job. I had a desk but no closeable door, and usually ate lunch at my desk. People would often come by and just start talking / asking for stuff, often without seeming to notice that it was my lunch time. I got a very occasional glance at my lunch and an "oh, sorry", but no-one ever offered to come back later.

  • Anon says:

    I'm eating at my desk right now (no need to apologize for interrupting my lunch for this comment). Usually my students will say sorry and start to leave, but I usually don't mind stopping to talk for a minute. I find LD's response interesting, though. As a grad student I remember going to great lengths to avoid eating in the lunchroom with my PI, so I usually try to spare my students the same anguish. But I don't see any need for complete privacy while I eat (i.e. a closed door). I reserve that right for occasional naps :).

  • Hermitage says:

    Bosspants closes the door. If it's a tight schedule, someone will get the lunch spot and he will eat while meeting with us, but it would never occur to me to interrupt him when he's eating. I don't even knock on his door during lunch hour.

    I live in a cubefarm, so people interrupt me all the time. I actually don't think anyone's even apologized for specifically asking questions while I'm eating.

  • pyrope says:

    Depends on the day whether door is open or closed during lunch. I usually get a sorry to interrupt from students, definitely from faculty, but no one has ever started to leave or offered to come back later. I have a tendency to bolt my food, so the window of actual 'eating time' for me is way less than your 15 min.

  • studyzone says:

    I don't eat lunch, so it hasn't been an issue for me. On the other hand, how to handle things when you're clearly in the middle of an experiment (headphones on, pipet in hand, eyebrows furrowed in concentration), and someone comes up to chat/ask a question?

  • AD says:

    "On the other hand, how to handle things when you're clearly in the middle of an experiment (headphones on, pipet in hand, eyebrows furrowed in concentration), and someone comes up to chat/ask a question?"

    If its a long answer, especially when I'm doing DNA/RNA work and I don't want to cast a spray of nucleases into the tubes, I just make a hand motion that says "later". On non RNA/DNA days if its something I can answer in 10 seconds I usually just answer or else I tell them that I'll talk as soon as the task at hand is done.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Our professional staff unionized, and secretaries were no longer able to eat lunch as their desk. They used to eat at their desk, while doing personal stuff on the computer, and we did not bother them. They would answer the phone if they were the only one in the office. We had a soft conference room where we often ate lunch, and that was what was going on in there. No eating in the labs of course.

  • DJMH says:

    I have been working under the assumption that if Boss wants alone time, he will close the door. If the door is open, lunch or otherwise, Hello!

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