Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Should you keep a candy dish on your desk?

Food has long been considered an important part of office culture.

In most offices you’ll find the always-full candy dish, the Friday potluck, the pizza party, the doughnuts, the birthday cake, Tupperware containers with fresh cookies, leftover desserts, and goodies from the kids’ school fundraisers.

There’s always some reason to incorporate food...and usually unhealthy food...into the work environment.

There are a few good reasons why this happens.
  • Food builds camaraderie, right?
  • It’s comforting, right?
  • You never know when someone (including you) might need a little pick-me-up, right?
  • It’s part of bonding with other co-workers, right?
  • It says “We appreciate you!”, right?
  • It’s a great way to get food you don't want out of your house, right?
Besides, office food is usually free. “Free” doesn’t mean you’re obligated to eat it... especially if you’re being offered a bunch of empty calories.

I usually advise against food in the office – especially the candy dish on your desk - because it invites interruptions. Co-workers interpret this as an open invitation to stop by to help themselves and to chat for a while. Or the food means you have to take frequent breaks to fill up. Before you know it you’re behind in your work and your billable hour goals.

There may be even better reasons for keeping that candy off your desk, out of your desk drawers, and banished from the office altogether.

In Today’s Wall Street Journal article “When the Office Turns into Candy Land” Sue Shellenbarger reports on Melanie Meek’s efforts to slim down. Apparently the office candy dish was sabotaging her efforts.

Melanie declared war saying, “If I have to smell it, I will move it.” Candy was swept into co-workers’ desk drawers. Other snacks were placed in a separate room.
It’s true that each empty calorie available for mindless eating sabotages the efforts of co-workers who are trying to eat healthy. If you can see it...reach it...smell it...you’re likelier to eat more.

If you are surrounded by people who urge you to eat and this plays havoc with your diet, as well as your work, there are alternatives. First, don’t take that first bite. Once you do that, it’s difficult to stop. When you’re tempted, remind yourself of your goals. If you have to have a treat during the day, turn to schedule periodic nutritious snacks to avoid mindless grazing. Suggestions include sugar-free candy and gum, raw vegetables, nuts, fruit, yogurt, and string cheese.

If your co-workers insist on bringing food into the office, encourage them to provide healthy snacks – both in the interest of increased productivity and in the interest of reduced waistlines.

To read Ms. Shellenbarger’s full article, follow this link.

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