Should You Allow Food in Cubicles?


As a manager or business owner, you have a vested interest in keeping employee morale high. But you also bear responsibility for keeping the office facilities and furniture in good condition. Allowing employees to eat at their desks can lead to a number of problems:

  • Stained upholstery or cubicle panel fabrics from sticky spills and soiled fingers
  • Pests (roaches, ants, and even rats) attracted to food residue
  • Bacteria on surfaces (the average desk is far dirtier than the average toilet seat)
  • Coworkers complaining about offensive smells and sounds coming from adjacent cubes

It’s smart to have a written food and drink policy to minimize these issues. Here are a few things to consider when creating your policy:

  • It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can reasonably make rules that state all snack foods must be stored in re-sealable containers to keep out pests. Or, you could state that all food items must be removed from workstations at the end of the day.
  • Gently remind employees of good cubicle etiquette. Most stinky foods are ones that get heated up in a microwave (e.g. burnt popcorn). You might minimize complaints about smells by allowing only food items that don’t require warming or cooking to be consumed at workstations.
  • Be prepared. If workers will be eating and drinking at their desks, provide a small container of wet wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer at each workstation. The easier it is for people to clean up after themselves, the more likely they are to do it. Have your janitorial staff wipe down every desk surface with sanitizing wipes during their rounds.
  • Consider your available break room amenities, proximity and break times. If you have a rule that employees can’t eat at their desks, you need to make sure to provide an appropriate place and time for them to snack. The nicer and more convenient the break room is, the more likely your workers will spend their 10-15 minute break there rather than sneaking food back to their desk.

Image courtesy of Flickr user ryaninc


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