French Workers Are Now Allowed to Eat Lunch at Their Desks
Due to health safety measures, the "sad desk salad" just took on a whole new level of ennui.
Although the "sad desk salad" has been an unfortunate part of almost every American's Monday-through-Friday life, it's never been a thing in France. For starters, it's hard to imagine the French eating sad anything, and what's more, the French labor code specifically forbids workers from "[taking] their meal inside the work premises."
That's about to change though, and of course it's because of the pandemic. According to Le Figaro, the protocol that governs how businesses operate and function was slightly changed at the end of last month, and it now requires that employees must remain two meters away from each other if they aren't wearing—or can't wear—their face masks. Since that includes all canteens and dining areas, the labor code has been amended to allow workers to eat at their desks. (Not to worry though, this is believed to be a temporary thing).
The Local reports that the revised labor protocol also bans "moments of conviviality at work," and requires workers to limit their social interaction as much as possible, including having a coffee break with a coworker or eating together in a common area. Under the previous labor code, if an employee was caught eating at his or her desk, the company could be fined, and the employee could also be subject to disciplinary action.
At the end of January, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that telecommuting (télétravail) was still a better choice than traveling to a communal space—although those working from home are now allowed to go into their offices or other workplaces one day a week "if it is required."
"We French and you Americans have totally different ideas about work," Agnès Dutin, a retired translator, told the New York Times. "It's a catastrophe to eat at your desk. You need a pause to refresh the mind. It's good to move your body. When you return, you see things differently."
France has been under a nationwide 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew since mid-January, and all bars, cafes, and restaurants are closed until mid-February at the earliest. Getting takeout—"le click & collect"—is still permitted. Last week, Castex said that a third full-on lockdown did not seem necessary right now. "We must stick with the current restrictions we already have in place ... but the situation today does not justify a new national lockdown," he said, before adding that this wasn't the time to "ease up" on existing precautions.
At least workers in France only have to suffer through their at-work lunches temporarily. How do you even say "sad desk salad" in French?