At my job if we remain in our office during lunch we are expected to still be available for work related questions/calls/etc... I find this to be very annoying as my lunch break is a time that I use to recharge for the second half of the day. I wouldn't mind it if I weren't interrupted multiple times every day, it just spoils the time to recharge. Many people take their lunch breaks at different times since we have a flexible start and end time during the day, so some people work while others are at lunch.

My current strategy is to leave the office during my break to eat lunch at a park right down the street, go on a walk, or to do some shopping or minor errands in the area if possible. This works fine for now, I am enjoying getting outside during lunch. Come fall and winter though I will need to remain inside and we don't have a designated break area for my department, everyone just uses their office.

Anybody have suggestions for creative solutions for this problem? I can't always get out of my office for lunch, but I want to preserve my break if possible. It may sound selfish but it helps me to stay focused during the day if I get an uninterrupted break in the middle to relax.

To clarify, I do not have to actually do any work during lunch, unless something urgently needs done that minute (rare) but I just want to stop the interruptions.

EDIT: Am I being reasonable to not want any interruptions during lunch? Or should I just be more tolerant of the fact that this will probably be an ongoing battle at my particular job?

  • 4
    what do the others do? I find it hard to understand why you cannot leave the office
    – Kilisi
    Jul 23, 2018 at 19:02
  • 2
    I can leave the office, that is why I go out to a park for lunch, when the weather changes though, I will be unable to go outside regularly as it will be too cold/rainy. I am just curious what other people do that have this same problem. I don't want to go out to eat every day as that costs considerably more than a packed lunch. Jul 23, 2018 at 19:06
  • 4
    Is there an office cafeteria or break room? Some area that is separate from your typical work space?
    – ZachTurn
    Jul 23, 2018 at 19:44
  • 2
    Meeting rooms tend to be unoccupied at lunch time. Could you block book one and meet with your sandwich? Or would you just be interrupted there too?
    – Mawg
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:36
  • 2
    Where are you located? Some places have laws requiring lunch breaks.
    – David K
    Jul 24, 2018 at 11:47

8 Answers 8


I certainly know how you feel... And I think interruptions during a break should be avoided to give you the chance to recharge and clear your head. After all, that is the purpose of a break.

I definitely advise you to speak with your colleagues (and maybe include your manager) and agree on some common rules. Some rules that worked well for me in the past are:

  • Whoever is having a break should not take phone calls. Either someone else takes the call and tells the caller to try again later or the call is not accepted at all.
  • Whoever is having a break has the right to tell colleagues to come back later. Estimate a time when your break ends so people don't come back in 5 minutes or have to wait longer than necessary.
  • You could agree on some sign or item that acts as a "do not disturb" sign. That way colleagues are aware of your taking a break before bothering you with their problem. It could be dishes and cutlery on your desk or a literally "do not disturb" sign hung on the back of your monitor / on your desk.
  • When all colleagues around are currently having a break but a problem cannot wait, the one who already finished eating should try to take care of it until everyone else finished eating. This could mean a "quick and dirty" temporary solution or getting rid of pestering customers.
  • If you have to interrupt your break, you should be justified to continue it afterwards in order to rest for the amount of time you are entitled to.

Obviously you have to ask your colleagues and manager whether these rules are acceptable or if they have different ideas. But I think it's very reasonable to not want lunch break interrupted and you should be able to explain your arguments easily.


1) Are you actually being interrupted or is this a hypothetical? If it's a hypothetical, then it should probably be left a hypothetical until it becomes not a hypothetical.

2) When faced with these interruptions, kindly ask the requester: "Can this wait until xxx time? I'm on lunch right now." where xxx time is when you're finished your lunch break. You said that you don't have to do work during lunch unless something "urgent" comes up, so simply clarifying with the requesting person if their request is urgent should solve most problems. Eventually people will get to know that during lunchtime, if they need to request something of you, don't bother unless it's urgent.

3) Since you have an office (you mentioned everyone at your company has an office), can you put a sign on your door that says "on lunch, do not disturb" or something like that?

  • 4
    Not hypothetical, this really happens. I usually mention that I am at lunch, and they leave it. The problem is that in my company I constantly receive phone calls during the day (every 10-15mins) as part of the team that I work with. They are usually less than a minute, it is more the interruption itself that is bothersome to me. If my office door is closed I am usually not bothered around lunch time. Maybe I can clarify my question a bit further as well. Jul 23, 2018 at 19:15
  • 8
    @lukebeast887 "If my office door is closed I am usually not bothered around lunch time." - well that seems like a viable solution.
    – David K
    Jul 23, 2018 at 19:16
  • 8
    @lukebeast887 Do you have to answer those calls? Can you let them go to voicemail, turn off the ringer? Jul 23, 2018 at 19:36
  • 7
    +1 to @thursdaysgeek suggestion of "just don't pick up the phone if you don't want to pick up the phone while on lunch". Whoever is calling you can wait a few minutes to hear back from you. It sounds like you're looking for an answer to the question "how can I not look like I'm shirking my duties while on lunch"; the answer is: "you're on lunch, during lunch you're allowed to shirk your duties, that's how being on lunch works". It seems weird that your physical location determines whether or not it's ok to shirk your duties; either you can or you can't, and that should be all there is to it
    – Ertai87
    Jul 23, 2018 at 20:17
  • 4
    There are countries with laws that you must have a lunch break, and that the lunch break has to be uninterrupted.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:25

office during lunch we are expected to still be available for work related questions/calls/etc

This means you don't have lunch break. You just can eat at workstation.
If you are expected to take "free" time and just be available for emergencies then you can have one way of reaching you with said emergency.

What you can do is to block your lunch time. If you use Outlook in company or any service that have calendar feature you can mark time you're "OUT". For anyone checking you will be seen as busy. No phone calls can be made (if you have services connected). usually also closed doors means "do not interrupt".
If the emergency arise people will interrupt you anyway.

You can also use "smiley face/sad face" tactics. So a smily face means your in and can be bothered. Sad face is when you're working on something (or just taking a nap) and shouldn't be interrupted.

Also you should take at Eisenhower box/matrix Eisenhower urgent tasks matrix

It will help you, and your colleagues, decide what is really urgent and important and what can wait those 30 minutes.


If you stay in your office the office consensus is that you're expected to answer your phone. Pushing against that seems a bit like you're unmotivated/committed to your job and willing to create some drama rather than handle it like everyone else. Attempting to make your colleagues support what might be construed as personal laziness as others suggest isn't a great look.

My suggestion is find what is inexpensive, indoors and nearby to relax in. I used to go to the library every lunchtime because it cost nothing. But there should be plenty of options if you look for them, internet cafe's, gym etc,. or look for somewhere within the building, all you need is enough room to sit down undisturbed.

Or just unplug your phone.


One option might be to wear earphones/headphones.

That provides a clear visual signal that your attention is elsewhere, and a barrier that people need to cross (attracting your attention and asking you to remove your phones) before you can attend to spoken questions. Depending on your workplace culture, that may dissuade interruptions, or at least the less important ones.

Of course, that also means you can listen to music (or audiobooks, or soothing noises), which might help you recharge! But it can still deter interruptions even if they're not connected.

In some workplaces you might also be able to do this during the working day at times when you particularly need to concentrate on something.


You can use my current strategy for getting out / getting work done at times, by going to a nearby cafe, store, library, or other indoor space.

Not something that will be too much money if done regularly, of course. As an example, you can browse a store without buying anything.


For the winter, when you don't want to leave your office, just make a sign that says "Out on lunch" in big letters and put it up on your desk for exactly 30 minutes (or however long your lunch break is). Reading a book, or taking knitting needles out is also a good indication that you are on a break. Don't take phone calls, and if someone comes to your desk you wait a bit until you take the nose out of your book and point at the sign.

If there is something important and urgent, then you do it, and the 30 minutes timer for lunch break restarts.


Maybe you're not a good fit for this company. They obviously want people who are reliable and responsible for the work. Do the company a favor and move on, let someone who wants to do the job do it and find yourself another company where you can "recharge".

  • 9
    It's a massive stretch to say that OP does not want his job just because he wants to eat lunch in peace so he is able to continue working effeciently after his break. Jul 24, 2018 at 8:25
  • 6
    Nothing says the company doesn't want OP to have their lunch break. And it is a really stupid attituded to say that someone who wants their lunchbreak is not "reliable and responsible for the work". Now even if that was all true, you don't "do the company a favour and move on", you say "f*** them" and hold on to your job. That would be three downvotes but I can give only one :-(
    – gnasher729
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:29
  • 4
    How can you answer with something like this? If you are trolling, you can probably do better.
    – user38290
    Jul 24, 2018 at 11:05
  • 7
    Terrible answer. My lunch hour is my time. Just because I take ½ hour or longer for lunch does not mean I'm not reliable. Good employees need some time in the middle of the day in order to recharge for the afternoon.
    – JazzmanJim
    Jul 24, 2018 at 15:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .