When you join a company, there is a proper process of onboarding and an induction program where employees are familiarized with workplace expectations, duties, ethics, and culture. A part of the ethical expectations and behavior from the employee is maintaining a clean environment. There are certain workplace standards that the human resource department of a company holds an employee to.
Employee responsibility for maintaining a clean environment
Most companies have janitorial services to maintain clean office spaces. But it does not mean that employees abdicate all responsibilities for keeping their work area clean and tidy.
Eating at the desk is another moot question. There are many offices that tolerate this. If people are overburdened and do not have time to go to the breakroom for even a short time, it is understandable. A one-off event is tolerable. But making it a regular habit should be discouraged.
Research done by the NDP Group, a leading global information company, revealed that nearly 62 percent of professionals prefer to eat lunch at their desks. There are far too many important tasks to be tackled in a day, leaving no time for a sit-down lunch. In addition, a Hartman Group research found that millennials preferred eating solo. They believe that eating alone allows them to multi-task better.
It is unhygienic and disturbing to the people working around you. Additionally, crumbs and food particles attract insects and roaches.
In customer-facing businesses, people eating whilst performing their work or in view of customers is incontrovertibly unprofessional. If the employee continues to work during their lunch, i.e., taking calls, typing, fielding queries, then the meal break might fairly be considered as not fully or wholly taken. This reflects badly on the company.
If you are classified as non-exempt by FLSA (Fair Labour Standards Act) standards, then anytime you work during your lunch hour, that can become potential overtime.
We talked to some human resource professionals from various industries, and the general consensus was that a clean and tidy environment reflects well on a company’s brand. But if employees are found to be sloppy and littering, it can put off prospective clients and employees.
People eating at their desks to save time is a fallacy, say many. It is no way improves productivity and shows that you are not handling your workflow well.
So, how do you handle people who do not maintain the cleanliness agenda of a workplace?
Some companies have a clear-cut policy of strictly no eating at the desk. A good way is to provide a designated space for workers to take a lunch break. Also, have clear signages discouraging littering. Make the breakroom welcoming and pleasant where people can relax and eat their lunch. Furnish it with easy chairs and a lunch table. Add a sofa and a television. Such an ambiance will draw people away from their desks. Encourage people to be more responsible about keeping the environment clean. Have a system of fines, where the money collected can go to an environmental charity.
The HR and management can give a written communication discouraging such behavior. Managers can gently remind employees who do not follow the rules that accidental spills can cause damage to equipment and important documents. Also, unpleasant odors can be offensive to others working on the premises and close proximity.