We’ve all been there, you forget your lunch in the office, and one of your co-workers has made use of catering food suppliers and you’ve got major food envy – but would you dare steal another person’s lunch? For most of us, it’s a no-brainer – absolutely not, but one picture this week in particular has had office workers talking about the rules surrounding communal food in the office. Head to the Doncaster Free Press website to see this photo posted by Doncaster Council of one employee taking protecting their milk to the next level by padlocking the lid on. Yes that’s a real padlock through a plastic bottle of milk.
Hopefully you don’t see this as a necessity in your office, but the idea led the BBC down a bit of a rabbit hole into workplace lunch thieves with thanks to anecdotes from their readers and looked at ideas of how to protect yourself from them. While one reader suggested spiking your milk with laxatives to send a message to milk thieves, we suggest you don’t go that far in your pursuit of food security.
How do you compare milk theft versus lunch theft? Professor Cary Cooper of the Alliance Manchester Business School, speaking to the BBC, said that while most of us can rationalise that milk left in the fridge is communal and nobody will mind: “They don’t see it as a crime. They see it as sharing,” he explains, however, stealing lunch is a much more personal attack on a person. However, whether its milk or lunch that gets taken, it always ends up with the actual owner being caught short at some point, when they expect their milk or food to be there when they open the fridge.
So how can you deter thieves that don’t involve mild poisoning? First up, lay a trap. Call on someone who has a good vantage point of the kitchen and let them know what they should be looking out for. It may be that you catch the thief in action, or just that word will get around that vigilance has been raised and your sandwich will remain safely uneaten in the fridge.
Your other option is to keep a closer eye on your food yourself. If the problem recurs, ask if you can bring in your own mini fridge, or else opt for a cool bag. They are usually cold enough to last until lunchtime no problem and keep your lunch fresh.
If you’re feeling particularly philanthropic, you could try foster a more open relationship with food in the office and encourage sharing from colleagues. We’re not quite sure how this would work, but in a perfect world, it’s a great idea!
Of course, one of the best ideas is to get your employer to take a bit more control over the food situation. Providing milk for employees isn’t a large cost, but can really boost moral and getting caterers to attend the workplace around lunch time means that fewer lunches pile up in the fridge. We’ll give many food thieves the benefit of the doubt and suggest the thefts are accidental, but by buying lunch nearer your lunch hour, hopefully we can bring some peace back to the workplace!