- About TFT
Friday Thing Archive
- Politics
- Media
- Culture and Society
- War On Terror
- People
- Places
- World
- Popped Clogs
- Music
- Books
- Film
- Etc
Help And Info
- Contact Details
- Advertising
- Jobs
- Privacy Policy
- XML Feed

Home > Culture and Society

Office Life: Lunch is a political issue.

16 July 2004

More dispatches from the battlefield of office life: this week a survey showed that the average office-bound Brit spends just 27 minutes a day away from their desk. It also showed that only one in five people takes a full hour for lunch.

It's hard to believe that this sort of research is terribly reliable - it's bound to be based on anecdotal evidence, and was commissioned by that rigorous academic body Eurest, a catering firm, with a view to getting a bit of mindless publicity. (The implication would seem to be that if we're all eating at our desks, then in-house catering is a good thing... maybe... who cares, frankly?)

But the long hours culture does appear to be getting worse. Of course, people always love to exaggerate how much they're martyrs to their jobs - particularly the sort of people whose working day is as follows:

10am-11am: drink coffee and chat

11am-12pm: look at colleague's holiday snaps, read personal emails

1pm-3pm: coo over visiting ex-colleague's toddler

3pm-5pm: use Internet to check bank balance, book holiday, buy videos from Amazon and visit Big Brother chatroom

5pm: go into blind panic as they realise they haven't done any actual work.

However, for those of us who realise we might be expected to at least do some work for the people who pay our salary, this latest erosion of employees' freedom can only be a bad thing. And it's easy to see how it happens. A pointy-haired boss doesn't come over and say 'Work through lunchtime, human robots!' It's more likely that gradually a culture of long hours builds up and so you feel as though you're letting the side down by sloping off for a couple of pints at lunchtime.

It's incredibly characteristic of the modern office, where rights and responsibilities are often very vague, usually replaced by an informal understanding that you can do what you want, as long as you 'don't take the piss'. But too often, the result of this informal contract is that you never really know where you stand. Some employers also exploit this situation, roping you in to after-work bashes or weekend conferences without any extra pay or days off in lieu.

And when day-to-day rules aren't clear, there's invariably tension between staff. The office martyr will work every lunchtime, quietly building up a vicious resentment of everyone who decided to go for a pizza on Friday, and took an hour and a quarter, instead of the customary one hour. In fact there's probably one in your office, buying an M-16 over the Internet to exact their revenge the next time everyone heads off to Pizza Express for Sandra's birthday.

But overall, slowly having our lunchtimes stolen from us makes you wonder what new ignominies our employers plan to visit on us. Pay toilets? Being made to bring your own pens, like at school? Lunchtime drinking bans, even though you're in control of nothing more dangerous than a filing cabinet?

Won't somebody think of the workers?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

Subscribe to The Friday Thing for free

Bad words ahead The Friday Thing is a weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced.

A selection of articles from each week's issue appear online, but to enjoy the full Thing, delivered by email every Friday - as well as access to almost five years of back issues - you'll need to subscribe. It's absolutely free.

"Razor-sharp comment and gossip." - The Sunday Times

"Hilariously cynical..To describe it as 'irreverent' is to do the newsletter an injustice." - The Observer

"Sharp, intelligent, opinionated, uncompromising and very, very funny. Just like 'Private Eye' used to be." - Alec McKelland

"Wicked" - Channel 4

"Ace" - Time Out

"'We rise once again in advocacy of The Friday Thing. We realize that some of you may be unwilling to spend [your money] on plain-text comment, but you're only depriving yourself." - The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

"Subscribing to this at the beginning of the year was undoubtedly one of the better decisions I've made. Superlative, and utterly marvellous. I look forward to Fridays now, because I can't wait for the next issue. Fucking fucking brilliant." - Meish.org

"Featuring writers from The Observer, Smack The Pony and The 11 O'Clock Show... will continue to attract new subscribers sight unseen" - NeedToKnow

"The Friday Thing is so good it's stopping me from doing a bunk of a Friday afternoon." - Annie Blinkhorn (The Erotic Review)

"So now" - The Evening Standard

"Damn it, you rule. May you never, ever back down." - Paul Mayze

"Ace" - PopJustice

"Snarky" - Online Journalism Review

"Can you please stop making me laugh out loud... I'm supposed to be working, you know!" - Tamsin Tyrwhitt

"Your coverage of stuff as it spills is right on the money." - Mike Woods

"Popbitch with A-Levels." - Tim Footman

"In an inbox full of trite work-related nonsense, TFT shines from under its subject heading like the sun out of Angus Deayton's arse." - Nikki Hunt

"A first rate email. It's become an integral part of my week, and my life would be empty and meaningless without it (well, *more* empty and meaningless anyway)." - Mark Pugh

"Genius, absolute bit of class. And you can quote me on that." - Lee Neville

"If you're hipper than hell, this is what you read." - MarketingSherpa

"The most entertaining email I've had all week. Great tone." - Matthew Prior

"A massive and engrossing wit injection." - idiotica.co.uk

"I wouldn't know satire if it bit me on the arse. But I did like the Naomi Campbell joke." - Matt Kelly (The Mirror)

"Has had an understandably high profile among people who know about these things." - Guy Clapperton (Guardian Online)

"Satirical sideswipes at the burning issues of the day." - Radio 5 Live

"Puerile and worthless... Truly fabulous... Do read the whole thing." - Stephen Pollard

The Friday Thing 2001-2008 - All Rights Reserved