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A small round table with croissants, fruits and coffee.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Is nothing sacred? Covid is seeming to change all the things that make us human. Ok, that’s a little much, but this New York Times article reports that the French Labor Ministry will now allow employers to eat lunch at their desks. 

I read the article and had to process this a bit. The government, up until this week, banned employees from eating lunch at their desks. 

The ban was consistent with the hyper-regulation of workers’ rights enshrined in a labor code that took form in the 20th century on the rough premise that every owner of a business was a ruthless capitalist bent on exploiting workers — say, by making them work through their lunch hours.

It also reflected the fierce French attachment to the country’s “art de vivre,” incompatible with the heresy of eating a lamb cutlet with sautéed potatoes while gazing at a spreadsheet.

New York Times – French to scrap law

So not only are the French people not eating at restaurants or cafes, they are now “allowed” to eat at their desks. I’m kind of sad about this, actually. Although I have not yet been to France, I am a wee bit obsessed with French culture and fashion and specifically the aforementioned “art de vivre,” which American life sorely lacks in some areas. I feel like here in America, it’s all bigger, faster, sooner, while France is more relax and enjoy. Your life is your art. And art is not always, in fact frequently not, convenient. I feel the pull here to worship the god of convenience, tasks should be easy and take the least amount of energy possible. Like food that comes out of a window and into your car. I worked once with a man, a fellow personal trainer, who’s rule in life was never to eat food that gets passed through a window, especially if it passes through two windows (the restaurant’s and your car’s.)  I tried to adopt that rule for a while, but then children happened and let’s be honest, convenience is king when you have two children under five. 

The desk lunch is not a unique to America, actually.

 In 2018, 80% of working Australians ate lunch at their desks, so they win.  Italians on the other hand, are homebodies for lunch. (74% eat lunch at home) which is made easier by the fact lunch is 1:30 – 3:00pm and may even drag out to 4:00pm. My Italian relatives would testify to this, meals in their homes never take less than two hours. 

Here at the Story Factory, while we prefer staff not nosh at their computers, it happens. Which is why there is a border collie to catch any crumbs.

Photograph of cafeteria at Calumet Avenue plant, [1940s]. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.

At my day job, we just moved into a beautiful, 42 million dollar building. And it has a break room, something our old building lacked. The break room is well appointed, with a large fridge, microwave, and even crockpots and roasters, in case we need to do a pot luck. And then, COVID and so our state of the art break room, the one that was supposed to unite our department through shared space, sits empty with a sign, One person at a time, and do not use the tables. 

At least I have a bigger desk.