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Summary:

Companies are running experiments that show employees are happier and more productive when eat in cheerful cafeterias with other people. The catch is that workers may have to hand over some privacy in exchange.

Unlike countries where people stop to have a nice meal in the workday, Americans have a little noon ritual of their own — sitting alone to chomp over the very same keyboard where they spent the rest of the day. According to Sad Desk Lunch, a site to share your lonely workplace sandwiches or microwave meal, 62 percent of Americans eat where they work.

If you find this depressing, take heart: Help may be on the way, thanks to a study that showed that workers are happier and more Lunch and Deskproductive when they eat with others and socialize during the work day.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Bank of America used data to discover its employees were 10 percent more productive when the company replaced solo breaks with group ones. Meanwhile, data experiments at other firms led them to make a cheerier, more social work place:

The company decided to make its once-dingy cafeteria more inviting, improving the lighting and offering better food, to encourage workers to lunch together, instead of at their desks.

Sound good? Don’t leap up from your sad little desk and pin the Journal article to your boss’s door just yet. There’s a catch. The employers in the article came to the conclusions they did only by sticking sensors on their workers:

Sensors, worn on lanyards or placed on office furniture, record how often staffers get up from their desks, consult other teams and hold meetings [..]  company employees wore iPhone-size badges.. that collected data on their motions, whereabouts, voice levels and conversational patterns.

The Journal report also notes that “bathroom breaks are optional” for those who are monitored and that employees who felt squeamish about the whole thing could wear dummy badges instead.

(Image by Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock)

  1. I’ll tell you what makes me sad. Having an employer who enforces a mandatory “away from desk” policy during all breaks including lunch. It makes me sad to have to hike 1/4 mile to the windowless break room at the other end of the building, to stand in line to get to the refrigerator and retrieve my lunch, then stand in line to use the microwave. It makes me sad to try and find a seat someplace in that grey and teal break room. It makes me sad to have 10 minutes to scarf down my sad little lunch, surrounded by people I either don’t know, or don’t like. It makes me sad to be approached by a supervisor who wants to dominate my time by questioning me or updating me on something DURING MY FRIGGIN BREAK. It makes me sad to have to carry a tracker so my overlords can follow my every move including measuring how long it takes me to go pee. It makes me sad to be used as an experiment by my employer, who is only looking for ways to justify doing what they wanted to do all along. It makes me sad to be described as “happier” being herded around, and tracked, and mischaracterized by their internal reports. Please, just let me eat at my desk in peace without intruding on me for once.

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  2. Great… I agree with the comment above.. I like and more happy if I can lunch alone without disturbing..

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