Health: How the rise of ‘al desko’ dining in Leeds could take a bite out of your health

Picture by PA Photo/ thinkstockphotos.
Picture by PA Photo/ thinkstockphotos.
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Your stomach is rumbling, you’re typing furiously but struggling to concentrate. It’s time for lunch – but why leave the office?

The idea that office workers get off their backsides at midday, take in some fresh air and nourish themselves with healthy food is becoming an increasingly distant dream.

Instead it seems more the case that city workers feel so crammed for time and overworked that they are eating at their desks daily.

In fact lunching on the job is now so common that the tongue-in-cheek term coined for it, ‘al desko’, was added to OxfordDictionaries.com’s online edition last year.

A survey of 500 London city workers by L’atelier des Chefs found half of them didn’t leave their desks at lunch and a third thought taking a proper lunch hour would be frowned upon.

Quick-thinking firms have since sprung up and thrived in the capital, delivering lunch from top restaurants to the desks of the bankers, brokers and lawyers that are faced with soggy sandwiches day to day. Leeds is next on the menu.

One such firm, Deliveroo, expanded into Leeds six weeks ago and has found a willing market with Friday lunchtimes proving a regular spike in demand. It charges £2.50 for deliveries at lunch or dinner.

Harry Tyndall, the firm’s market launch manager, explained Deliveroo now operates in around 26 UK cities and has enlisted around 30 Leeds restaurants including MEATliquor, Barburrito, My Thai and Bundobust.

“We work with corporate companies and give people a good option to have good quality food at their doors,” he said. “There is a good food market in Leeds at the moment, and that’s why we launched it.”

He’s right, Leeds’ indie food scene in particular is booming but the rise of daily al desko dining is thought to have implications for both health and productivity at work.

In Leeds at least, the fact that Friday lunch times are a spike for Deliveroo suggests delivered lunches might still be an end-of-week treat – and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially considering many of its eateries offer healthy food.

Nevertheless the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) found one in five people work through their lunch and just less than half eat at their desks. It has called on employers to support staff to be more active at lunch in order to reduce the risk of back and neck pain and long term illness.

Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, said: “The price of inactivity for employers can be vast, with higher sickness absence costs and lower productivity.”

One-off delivered treats that make the most of our vibrant food scene are all well and good, but abandoning the keyboard at lunch should certainly be the norm.