By Mike Pomranz and Mike Pomranz /
November 30, 2016
Smelly Food
Credit: Arielle Cifuentes

This story originally appeared on

Plenty of modern companies have embraced the idea of an “open office” floorplan. One of the supposed benefits is that if you need something from Paul, he’s right there – like right in your face. But another consequence is that Paul’s lunch is also in your face – along with its odors. And so is everyone else’s lunch – and their smells. It’s worth busting your hump to get a vice president position just to get an office and get away from it all. Which I guess could be another benefit of the open office floorplan: motivation by stench. But a new survey suggests otherwise, saying that smelly food is actually cutting workplace productivity.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, a recently released survey of 1,000 office workers tried to determine just how much people eating at their desks affected the office environment. The results found that two-thirds of those polled eat lunch at their desks most days of the week and that this mixing of worktime and mealtime was causing problems. Over half of those surveyed suggested that coworkers who ate offensively-scented meals were “anti-social.” And yet most of those surveyed seemed to keep this resentment to themselves: Less than one in five respondents said they’d ask a coworker to go eat elsewhere. “Some people may not realize how much of an effect their lunch choices could have on co-workers who sit near them,” Gareth Cowmeadow from Ambius, the interior landscaping firm behind the survey, was quoted as saying.

Luckily, since no one seems to want to tell anyone how gross their lunches smell, the survey went ahead and did that for us. Stinky fish like mackerel or sardines topped the list, followed by eggs and then cheese. Though to be fair, if you’re eating sardines for lunch, I think it’s a fair guess to say you really are not the most social butterfly. Meanwhile, the best-smelling foods were listed as buttered toast, then fresh pastries and finally bacon sandwiches – because apparently the only thing your coworkers want more than you to eat decent smelling food is to starve to death.

Beyond the new survey, the Mail also pointed to studies suggesting that eating at your desk can have other negative side effects as well, including making you fatter and more susceptible to illness. At this point, your best bet is probably just quitting your job.