Office Lunchtime Behaviours

In an ever increasingly health conscious and self-controlled generation, homemade meals and super-foods are the order of the day; and we mean that quite literally. When the ban on fish in the kitchen was brought into play in our office it sparked a passionate debate on work appropriate lunch choices; in turn igniting my curiosity as to the work-lunch do’s and don’ts of other offices. Being digital behaviourists we knew such answers lay in the data and so to feed our hunger (pardon the pun) for knowledge we dove deep into the online social conversations.

From an initial top line analysis of the data set, it was clear that in making their lunch-time food choices, people are becoming increasingly focused on mood-boosting, brain-activating foods in an effort to avoid that carb induced ‘post-lunch’ slump.

So what are people opting for come that tummy rumbling mid-day point and what other loves and loathes does an office lunch evoke?

It turns out that for those born from 1995 onwards, the pursuit of health, dietary self-control, moderation and motivation to maintain physical fitness increasingly appear to underpin consumption related decision-making principles. This also appears to be permeating to older demographics meaning that office fridges across the UK are filling up fast with protein salad plates, noodle boxes and the must-have super-food lunch item for 2016 – the avocado! Inventive and elaborate ingredients are proudly paraded in the workplace and across socials as people show off their cooking skills and preparedness.

Taking a deeper look at the data, DI identified a serious issue, widespread throughout the workplace – a condition known as the ‘office bragger’. Although limited in majority to the office kitchen, the condition has been noted in some cases as spreading far and wide across social media platforms. Bragging is the key behaviour observed around homemade and pre-prepared lunches as people self-promote their personal cooking and organisational skills with great pride. This level of bragging leads to a significant degree of social pressure for those who do not, for various reasons, have time to prepare homemade lunches. The bragging of others greatly annoys this group, making them feel under pressure for being unprepared, boring and – in extreme cases – self-conscious about being perceived as poor or less skilled than their colleagues. Irritation is openly shared around kitchen-competitiveness and the loathe of constant enquiries of “what have you got for lunch/what are you having today”. This form of unwelcome engagement can be a pain-point for many but as conversation topics go, none is appreciated less than being engaged in conversation by a colleague about work whilst you are attempting to briefly forget about it.

The topic of skipping lunch at work generated notable volume in conversation, in majority as a result of people not having time to prepare lunch or preparing it and then forgetting to bring it in! However, a significant volume of conversation online was also identified around the theses of cost and time limitations on lunch breaks. The issue of budgeting arose consistently as a concern for many. The cost of buying lunch at work each day, or having to buy after forgetting to bring any in, or the cost of in-work/ near-work catering options.

Cost is also linked strongly to choice availability where resentment is expressed at uninspiring yet expensive options. With regards to time pressures, people often feel very rushed, causing lunch to be a stressful time at work. In terms of having time to go out, walk, queue, return and consume. Lunch rotas (particularly prevalent in retail and call centre environments) are a major pain-point for those on the earlier or later time slots who express long periods of hunger as a result.

Finally, the conversation topics driving the highest volumes of positive comment, reaction and reflection, related to loved ones surprising their friends, family and partners at work with lunch. It was widely shared that employees love work-organised lunches either as surprise ‘gifts’ from employers or as spontaneous lunch-trips with colleagues. Leftover food and treats from meeting also never appears to go a miss!

Sharing this blog around our office reaffirmed that the data was in fact a very accurate representation of workplace loves and loathes! Can you identify with any behaviours DI have highlighted?

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