Fellow workplace behavior expert Patricia Fitzpatrick of The Etiquette School of New York is even more emphatic. "Proper office etiquette dictates that one not eat anything at one's desk that is going to offend coworkers, such as food that has a strong odor or is messy to eat," she says. "And they should never heat food, such as fish, that has a strong odor in the microwave."
Hygiene, slurping and other noises
Whitmore also worries about non-chewing and slurping sounds associated with eating and drinking. "Try not to rattle paper bags, such as chip bags," she says. "It might distract co-workers." Other auditory distractions Whitmore warns about include beverages. "Don't slurp your drink or chew ice," she advises. "And stay away from overly crunchy food."
Another issue, say the decorum doyens, is hygiene.
"Desks have 400 times more bacteria than toilet seats," says Antezana, who describes herself as an 'impression management specialist." "And it's visually unappealing, especially if you're walking through with a visitor. Breadcrumbs scattered all over files, sticky keyboards … yuck!"
"Eating at your desk can also attract bugs," adds Whitmore. "Clean up after yourself. After all, your mother does not work there and will not clean up after you!"
A further bugbear is use of office kitchens and their appliances. "Don't eat other people's food in the communal refrigerator," says Whitmore. "Clean up spills if you make a mess in the microwave or on the counter-tops.
"And if your food has been in the refrigerator for more than three days, throw it out."
Antezana has some additional rules: "Cover your food when heating it up," she says. "And if your spaghetti sauce splatters all over the microwave, make you clean it up before the next person has to use it. Same goes for the toaster – make sure it's clean of your breadcrumbs for the next person."
Rossi also is a stickler for tidiness and garbage disposal. "Always tidy up carefully," she says, "throwing sandwich wrappers, containers and anything with a lingering smell in a larger trash can that isn't in an enclosed area."
Meanwhile, all the experts urge workers to avoid desktop eating, at least occasionally.