(MoneyWatch) Whether you're takingthis season, have a heavier than usual workload, or just want to get out on time, you may be eating at your desk more than you'd like. And while multi-tasking can help you meet deadlines, treating your cubicle as a cafeteria can be annoying to your co-workers (even if they're also working through their mid-day meal). Here's why -- and how to avoid creating conflict:
You eat at odd hours
If everyone around you is eating, you're less likely to annoy people or disrupt the flow of business. "You don't want your boss to pop into your office at 4 to find you wolfing down a sandwich," says Mister Manners Thomas P. Farley, an expert who teaches business etiquette to corporations.
You're a mess
One word: Napkins. Keep plenty of them on hand to keep your face, hands and desk clean, suggests Farley: "Also, have a small mirror handy so you can do a 'face and teeth check' before you leave your chair."
You leave your dishes in the sink
Your significant other hates this behavior, and so do your workmates. "Don't leave your plate in the sink with the intention of 'coming back later' to clean up your mess. Do it now!" says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas.
Or, at least your food does. "I suggest staying away from pungent foods containing onion, garlic or heavy spices, like a curry," says etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Poised for Success. This is especially important if you're going to microwave your meal.
You chew with your mouth open
Even though you're multi-tasking, remember to chew quietly, with your mouth closed. Just because people can't see you because of your cube walls doesn't mean they can't hear you. "You [don't want your] colleagues to hear you chomping on corn chips from the next office, tearing into the bag like a wild boar," says Gottsman. In fact, corn chips and other "loud" foods should be left off the menu altogether.
You don't know the company culture
If you're unsure of appropriate deskside eating etiquette, particularly at a new job, you may want to simply ask if eating a sandwich will bother someone, says Whitmore. "I always ask this question of my seatmates when I want to eat something on the airplane. [It's important because] some people are sensitive to certain foods such as peanuts."
Are there any other "cube-side" eating etiquette rules I missed?