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8 office meals that carry a risk of Sad Work Lunch Syndrome

Here are the meals that may cause it. Ranked here from least to most dangerous.

LUNCH IS ONE of the most exciting parts of the working day. It’s something to plan for, to savour, to string out as long as possible.

But sometimes lunch just turns around and stabs you in the back. And that’s when you risk contracting Sad Work Lunch Syndrome (SWLS), a dangerous condition that leads to desk misery and overspending at the vending machine.

We have ranked the offending lunches here from least to most dangerous.

8. Cup-a-soup

Cup soup Source: matsuyuki

Warm and comforting, true. But you’re always seconds away from the realisation that you are eating a glorified stock cube. And that’s when SWLS will strike.

7. Can’t Be Bothered Going To The Shop Lunch

Empty fridge Source: ndanger

“Hey, I’m a bit short of time – I’ll just cobble something together with what I have in the cupboard.”

*eats out-of-date tuna on stale digestive biscuits, cries*

6. Bread with the mould scraped off

Mold on bread Source: Keenan Pepper

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re all in favour of scraping the mould off bread. But it sure as hell takes the shine off your sandwich-making experience because as you eat it, you’re always wondering if you can detect that faint metallic flavour that tells you you missed a spot.

Sad Work Lunch Syndrome is always, always waiting.

5. Rehydrated noodles of any kind

Luvley jubley! Source: Gene Hunt

Also known as ‘end-of-the-month takeaway’. The SWLS risk is doubled if you have a multipack that are all the same flavour, and eat them every day for a week.

4. Fridge Smell Lunch

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar Source: klwatts

The worst part of Fridge Smell Lunch is the element of surprise.

There you are preparing a perfectly good sandwich – layering your cheese, cutting the bread diagonally, maybe carrying it to a table – and then BAM, it hits you. You’re basically eating the leftover curry that someone put in the office fridge two Thursdays ago, combined with a tray of mouldy strawberries.

Deeply, deeply traumatising. Your defences are right down and that’s when SWLS will hit you hardest.

3. The badly-chosen sandwich

mayo-4-e1370946633665-446x500 Source: alfalfalfa

This one is primarily to do with expectations. You go out for a sandwich. Hell, you’re treating yourself. You stand in line at the deli counter judging the sandwich decisions of others.

And then it’s you – and you go to pieces. “Coleslaw and egg mayonnaise please with extra margarine.”

Or worse: YOU make the right decision, but the deli person makes a total hames of it and leaves you choking down forkfuls of onion through your tears, thinking over and over “I just asked for a little.” Send yourself in for a SWLS checkup immediately.

2. Anything that you’ve stolen from a co-worker

Postit on the shared office fridge Source: Kai Hendry

Obviously, this is an act that springs from extreme desperation. But it is a proven scientific fact that anything you rob from a co-worker will taste primarily of guilt.


The most terrible thing about this particular variation is that TWO people are now at risk of SWLS – the thief and the victim.

1. Desk Lunch

shutterstock_2638437 Source: Shutterstock

The worst work lunch of all, because it can be anything and there is no escaping it. You could be eating an entire artisan-glazed suckling pig stuffed with foie gras at your desk and it would still be a major misery risk. (And not just because of the ethical problems of foie gras.)

Also, your keyboard will be filthy (see above) and you may find your co-workers gently twirling their office chairs out of smell range. If you do this repeatedly, you are probably reading this from isolation conditions in the the SWLS quarantine ward. Or at least, you should be.

Do you, or does anyone you know, suffer from SWLS? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see what we can do.

The Guide To Improving Your Lunch At Work>

Who used to have Billy Roll sandwiches for their big lunch?>

About the author:

Michael Freeman

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