Stuck In The Trap of Working Through Lunch

I’ve been stuck in the trap of working through my work lunch break for years now, to the point where it doesn’t even cross my mind for weeks or months on end that I’m working 8+ hours straight every day.

Now that I work a couple of days a week from home, it’s dawned on me that even in the comfort of my own home, away from the prying eyes of colleagues and managers, I’m still skipping my lunch break. Something is wrong!

I’m not one to get in a twist over putting in some extra time at work; I won’t be out the door on a Friday at the stroke of 4pm, if there’s any kind of lingering issue or outstanding work to be done, I’m fine with hanging back within reason. But when you look at it for what it is, skipping your lunch break equates to 4-5 hours a week of your time given freely working for somebody else.

It sounds easy; just get away from your desk and take your damn break! But any time I’ve tried to get into a habit of doing this, I seem to revert back to working through lunch after a few days. A certain amount of guilt even creeps in, that no doubt is a result of keeping up this habit for years.

I think this all began for me when I first got into IT. I changed careers from music production to IT, and my only way into the industry at that time was through a government funded internship. As bad as the pay was, I can’t complain too much, as I know many others are lucky to get any kind of payment during an internship. But it definitely instilled a sense of inferiority in me during that time, that I had to prove myself worthy of a permanent position to my colleagues and management. And so I never took a lunch break for the 9 month internship, and subsequently rarely took any kind of lunch break when I was made permanent for my remaining 4 years with that company.

The real slap in the face though, is that nobody will reward you for putting in those extra hours, and frankly nobody cares. Your colleagues won’t notice, they’ll just see you as being always available, which is a problem in itself. And management certainly aren’t taking note of your lunch work, it just doesn’t have the same visibility as overtime after-hours work does, even if you’re getting exactly the same amount of work done.

In my first IT position, when handing in my notice after 5 years, I was held accountable for 3 days annual leave that I had to either work back or have deducted from my final payslip. Did the hundreds of extra hours I worked during my lunch breaks count for anything? Not one single bit. And I can’t even blame management for doing things strictly by the book, that’s their job.

And yet, despite it being made abundantly clear to me time and time again that there is little to no reward for working through your lunch break, the habit stuck and followed me. I’ve less to “prove” now in my current company, but certainly have a shed more work and responsibility, so the validation now for skipping lunch has become “How else could I possibly get all my work done with 5 hours less each week”?

But it’s not my fault there is too much work to be done during my contracted hours, and again, nobody is going to notice the lack of staffing or excessive workload if I’m doing it essentially for free. And so I’m using this blog as I’ve done before to make myself accountable! It’s time to start taking that 1 hour break every single day. Starting from Monday, I’ll be using my lunch break to put in an hour study each day for the RHCSA cert.

Using that hour to study probably isn’t the best way to spend your work lunch; I’ll be missing benefit of getting away from my desk, of taking my mind off work, and of building relationships with work colleagues. But I feel as a way of breaking a habit, having a goal to pass the RHCSA certification will help me justify taking my break in a way that “getting away from the desk for an hour” won’t, at least initially.

Hoping to be able to write a blog post in 4 weeks showing 20 hours study complete!

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