Ruly Humor: Making Peace with the Office Fridge
There are few issues in a business office that involve as many politics as the shared office refrigerator. Naturally, we treat lunches and snacks very personally and when we leave our food somewhere for safekeeping, we want to find it safe and fresh when we come back to it. It brings a distinct sense of unease to find your sustenance moved, tampered with or otherwise disturbed.
The most common problems with the office refrigerator are overcrowding, stolen lunches, forgotten food left to rot and assigning responsibility to some unlucky soul to periodically clean out the office fridge–one of the most thankless and awful tasks.
Of course it also doesn’t help things that we are all bringing with us our own hangups about food and eating into the mix. Dietary restrictions, food snobbery, calorie counting, secretive eating, allergies, cleanliness routines…you name it and someone in your office has an opinion on the matter. The office itself may cause our eating behaviors to become more bizarre. Once we are in a shared food environment, primal survival instincts are triggered and we become supremely intolerant and compulsive. Or, some may be trying to put on a front of good eating habits to appear more conscious of nutrition and calories in an attempt to enhance their professional image.
If you need a lift for your Friday, try not to laugh as you read these true articles related to food in the office:
- Office refrigerator packs punch, stench sends seven to the hospital (CNN, May 13, 2009)
- The Half-Donut Bandit
- Popcorn Thursday
- “Smelly Food”
- Synagogue Fridge
- Diet Coke Jesus
- Elementary School Ice Cream Devil
- Disgruntled Fridge Cleanout Victim
- You Clean It!
So what can you do about the office fridge? At the risk of creating a passive agressive note of my own, here are some Ruly suggestions.
- Each person using the fridge should store lunch for only one day’s worth of food at a time. Excess food will be considered open for sharing with the rest of the office.
- At the end of the week (or day), everything in the fridge and freezer gets tossed and the fridge is cleaned. The tossing should occur, however, well after working hours have concluded, preferably during the late evening or on a weekend. You don’t want to toss dinner for someone working late. Once employees learn that this policy is ruthlessly enforced, they will learn quickly to take care of their food or pack it in disposable containers they don’t mind losing.
- Include cleaning of the office fridge in your company’s janitorial/housekeeping contract. Avoid assigning this task to an employee who does not have janitorial responsbilities as part of their job description unless you really want to destroy their morale. Alternatively, offer additional compensation for the person who “volunteers” to clean out the fridge.
- If you have enough space, consider designating one space in the fridge for shared food and mark it with a colored shelf or label. This is where you can put leftovers from meetings or extra portions from lunch. Note that catered, perishable food should not be kept out for more than 2 hours from serving. Put leftover catering in the shared spot in the fridge and leave a note on the kitchen counter rather than leaving it out.
Keep smiling and enjoy your fridge and your weekend!