A woman has sparked a heated debate about office break etiquette after revealing she was reprimanded over eating a hot breakfast at work. 

Mumsnet was contacted by the British woman to inquire if she thought it unreasonable to spend five minutes at her desk in order to heat eggs or beans, while her colleagues were taking a break for morning tea.  

The line manager told her that the woman was taking extra time from work. If she continued, she could’split the break’ between lunchtime and morning. 

This woman seemed baffled and stated that she believed a brief screen-break should be permitted.

The majority of users agreed that she had missed the point and the problem was the heat, possibly’smelly,’ food rather than how long it took to prepare.   

The woman asked if it was unreasonable of her to microwave 'a tub of beans' or 'eggs she has already put in a bowl and whisked at home' during her first few hours at work. Stock image

She asked the woman if she thought it unreasonable to heat up ‘a tube of beans’ or eggs that she had already cooked at home during her first hours of work. Stock photo

In a lengthy post, she explained her line manager had said 'it had been noticed' she was stepping away from her desk and that she should cease having hot breakfasts on office time

The woman explained in a long post that her line manger had noticed she was leaving her desk, and suggested she stop eating hot breakfasts at work.

She explained that she couldn’t eat early in the morning, so the woman stated, “I have eaten at my desk all day, some cold food, and other times something warm.

I’m relatively new to the job. However, in the two months since others observed me, even my line manager has never raised an issue.

‘We have access to both a microwave oven and toaster. So sometimes, I’ll bring in some beans or eggs. They take 2 minutes in microwave to heat. I also sometimes make toast.

According to the woman, even though she was going to leave her desk at 8 am, she was still heating her breakfasts for two hours.

The line manager approached her and said that the microwave/toaster could only be used for lunch unless she wanted to “split her breaks over both”.   

However many users argued she was missing the point of the complaint and that the issue was her hot, potentially 'smelly' food, rather than the time it took to cook

 However many users argued she was missing the point of the complaint and that the issue was her hot, potentially ‘smelly’ food, rather than the time it took to cook

After reading her situation, commenters—many of whom work in a office themselves—quickly informed her that they thought her behaviour had been unprofessional.

One individual wrote, “Hot food at work is not popular due to its smells.” You also run the risk of spills when you eat that type of food in front your computer. They don’t have to offer a microwave if they don’t need it.

Another commented: ‘YABU’ (you are being unreasonable) to microwave eggs, and expect people to not notice the smell. It’s not a good idea to bring snacks with you to work if it is something like a snack bar, nuts, or even a bag of cereal. Beans or eggs with toast is a meal not a snack, so not something that you should have at your desk while you’re meant to be working.

“Your claim about the regular break is false. It is possible to have a meal without taking a break. 

The majority of users agreed it was the odour that was most likely the main issue at hand

Most users believed it to be the unpleasant odour.

A third agreed statement was: “I believe having beans, eggs, and toast is taking over the mickey. Try a cereal bar, or something less complicated and subtler. It is possible to smell bad if you have an open-plan office.  

The odour was so bad that a third couldn’t bear to think about it. It would make me grouchy. You can either eat a cold breakfast or wait until lunch. 

However, a few individuals disagreed with this majority, and maintained the belief that everyone should have the right to eat what they like at their desks.

One man said that he used to work nights and would cook whole meals for people at his desk. Curry, chilli, reheated pizza, pasta. It was always interesting to see what other people had.

A small portion of office-goers could not understand why having food that smelled strongly was an issue

One small percentage of office workers couldn’t understand why food with strong smells was an issue.

A second commenter, who was also surprised by the responses to the post, said that eggs don’t smell like anything and were a satisfying meal. Even if you eat a croissant daily, it isn’t healthy to eat one every day.

“Maybe it’s time to heat up mackerel as a lunchtime meal, in order to get enough protein.”

 A third contributed: ‘What’s wrong with being able to smell food. You are right. It’s hard to expect someone to eat food they don’t want at a time and place that suits you. But, you’re still new so be patient.

‘I would put my eggs and bread in an egg mayonnaise sandwich that I could eat at my desk when it suits me. It means you won’t break the no hot food rule in the morning and can enjoy whatever foods you desire, whenever you feel like it. You can’t disagree with this, can you?