That’s desk-usting! Study lifts the lid on Britain’s smelliest lunches

Research by Ambius uncovers the nation’s ‘al desko’ disasters

93% of attendees to the Ambius plant giveaway indicated they would prefer to work in a workspace which had plants

Busy Brits are eating lunch at their desk more regularly, and stinking out the office in the process, according to a new study released today.

Research by interior landscaping and scenting firm, Ambius, found that more than half (55%) of British office workers find it anti-social when a colleague eats strong smelling food at their desk, with a third finding it hard to work as a result. Brits voted oily fish (such as mackerel or sardines) the worst ‘al desko’ lunch for fellow office workers to put up with, with smelly cheese (45%), boiled eggs (42%) and egg sandwiches (39%), also featuring on the blacklist.

Top 10 anti-social lunchtime smells

  1. Oily fish (46%)
  2. Smelly cheese (45%)
  3. Boiled egg (42%)
  4. Egg sandwich (39%)
  5. Garlicky foods (38%)
  6. Curry (37%)
  7. Raw onions (36%)
  8. Crustaceans e.g. prawns (32%)
  9. Fast food (28%)
  10. Tuna sandwich (27%)

The survey of 1,000 UK office workers found that three in five (61%) eat their lunch at their desk three or more times a week. Forty-one per cent of those quizzed claimed they’re too busy to take a lunch break, while almost a third said they eat lunch at their desk to attend to personal admin or to catch up on the news.

The research also found that British politeness is alive and well, with only 18 per cent of office workers saying they had asked a colleague to eat elsewhere because of the smell of their food, and 45 per cent saying that they wouldn’t say anything to a colleague even if they found the smell of their lunch food offensive. A significant percentage (35%) also said they found the noise of colleagues eating at their desk off-putting.

As well as the worst offenders, Ambius’ study also uncovered the nation’s favourite office food smells. Buttered toast topped the list of pleasant-smelling foods that workers eat at their desk, closely followed by fresh pastries and a bacon sandwich. Perhaps surprisingly, the smell of banana came seventh in the list of most pleasant smells, with 36 per cent of those surveyed selecting this as a smell they liked.

Top 10 lunchtime smells

  1. Buttered toast (47%)
  2. Fresh pastries (45%)
  3. Bacon Sandwich (42%)
  4. Chicken soup (37%)
  5. Tomato soup (37%)
  6. Sausage roll (37%)
  7. Banana (36%)
  8. Pizza (35%)
  9. Fish and chips (31%)
  10. Spaghetti bolognaise (30%)

Gareth Cowmeadow, Scenting Specialist at Ambius said, “Smell is an extremely powerful sense, with the ability to trigger emotions and strong feelings. Some people may not realise how much of an effect their lunch choices could have on co-workers who sit near them.

“With so many people eating at their desks these days, scenting is one way of creating an inspiring and positive atmosphere in which to work. Our survey found that freshly-cut flowers (55%), brewed coffee (50%) and washed clothes (39%) were the top three non-food smells that workers find pleasant in the office.

“It is worth remembering that in the same way that the ambient scents can positively influence the perception of a customer in a shopping centre, an appealing workplace aroma will no doubt influence employee perception of their employer and their work, so bad office smells should really not be ignored. Office and facilities managers should pay close attention to communal areas such as receptions, lifts or lobbies, as scent plays an important role in creating a good first impression for clients and employees.”