To Sagutan’s amazement, though his office serves free hot lunches every day and has its own Italian chef, his colleagues often bring in their own matpakke instead. “Or sometimes let’s say we have pasta for lunch, well, then the Norwegians in the queue will start slicing up bread,” he says. “They might put pasta on top, as if it was a matpakke. They say: ‘No, no, no, I don’t feel that it’s a lunch if we don’t have the slice of bread’.”
Finally, the matpakke could help workers to avoid decision fatigue. This might sound like a bit of a stretch, but there’s mounting evidence that each decision we make takes a toll on our mental reserves, eventually leading to worse decisions later in the day. In some professions, such as medicine, this can put lives at risk.
One strategy for overcoming this issue is to avoid unimportant decisions altogether by making the same choices every day. For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly always wears the same outfit to work – his iconic grey T-shirt with jeans – for this reason. Another fan is former US President Barack Obama, who wears a blue or grey suit. Having the same lunch formula every day means Norway’s super-productive workforce has one less decision to make.
“Avoiding decision fatigue is certainly important, and I always advise my clients to get around this with forward planning,” says productivity coach Rutter. “Pre-preparing your lunch can really help.”
It’s hard to imagine the rest of the world suddenly developing a taste for caviar-from-a-tube or stale liver pâté. Still, the Norwegian culture of the packed lunch seems to have plenty of upsides. It might be worth giving the world’s most disappointing sandwich a try.
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