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Table for one a health risk

Saturday, 27 April 2013
Author: Ben Pike, AdelaideNow

EYES glued to the computer screen while mindlessly chewing reheated takeaway over a keyboard - 21st century "al desko" eating can harm us, experts say.

Nutritionists and employment experts have spoken out against what they say is a growing trend of eager-beaver office workers making themselves fatter, unhappier and less productive by refusing to walk outside to eat.

Not only are employees chaining themselves to the desk for up to 12 hours a day, they are driving their colleagues insane with dirty bowls, fishy hot meals and crumb trails spreading from their chairs.

Adelaide University Associate Professor John Spoehr believes the shrinking popularity of the long, boozy lunch is linked to rising unemployment and the fact most lunches have now been exempted from fringe benefits tax concessions.

"Over the short term it's a trend that might intensify because of economic uncertainty and rising unemployment," the Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre executive director said.

"When people feel more insecure they tend to want to prove themselves. (Eating al desko) is a light-hearted way of describing something that it quite problematic."

Prof Spoehr said new high-visibility offices encourage workers to eat at their desks because more managers are 'on the floor' with their staff as opposed to being hidden away in offices.

Unemployment is expected to soon hit 6 per cent after pre-GFC lows of 3.9 per cent, AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said.

The average lunch break is about 45 minutes, according to recruitment company Hays, but one in five employees only take a quarter of their lunchbreak or less.

Over half of all survey respondents eat lunch at their desk rather than leaving their office.

Nutritionist Susie Burrell said there are serious health implications.

"On a daily basis I'm completely shocked at how many hours people work, how late they eat their lunch and how they barely leave the office," she said.

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Associate Professor John Spoehr (email)
Executive Director
Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre (WISeR)
The University of Adelaide
Business: (08) 8313 3350

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