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I tend to take several breaks throughout the day in order to clear my head of my work and relax (and smoke a cigarette). Typically there are 2-5 of these each day.

At my current company, there are no problems since I typically am in the office at 5:45am and leave at 4pm with over 9 hours at my desk.

I am taking a new short term contract position and am worried these breaks will result in my new coworkers seeing me as being lazy. I want them to understand I typically take a short break when facing a problem I don't understand.

How can I ensure my new coworkers do not view my break schedule and work habits negatively after starting a new job?

  • Don't worry about these breaks in the least. Everyone has their process and any company worth working for will be able to cope with it. I frequently walk out into the common area and think with a yoyo or juggling balls. 5-10 minutes is usually enough to figure whatever I need out. My coworkers tend to refer this as "consulting Master Yo". – Joel Etherton Apr 6 '14 at 1:50
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Is there any suggestions on how to prepare for this and to kind of test the waters in order to stay in the best light of my company while performing optimal work quality?

Every company has a culture. Part of that culture relates to the intensity and continuity of the work, and the location, frequency, and duration of breaks.

As part of the interview process, it's a good idea to try and get a sense of the culture, to make sure it meets your personal needs. That can be hard at times, so you might have to get your clues after starting work.

Early in your tenure, look to your colleagues. See what they are doing, how often they break, if the breaks are formal, coordinated times, or just informal breaks. In particular, note the actions of the smokers.

Then, join in. During a smoke break with your new friends, casually ask about how these breaks are received.

After a short time, you'll certainly learn how others handle taking breaks, smoking, and which of them are high-performers. Compare their actions to those who take fewer, shorter breaks, and which of them are high-performers.

Then chose your actions to best meet your goals, based on your observations.

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  • Great suggestions Joe, will definitely try this out. I am probably overthinking it honestly but it's a short term contract that I am moving 2200 miles for. I really want to leave a great impression and hopefully extend or go FTE. – Paul Muir Apr 7 '14 at 0:32
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Any company worth working for will understand and respect that people need to take breaks in order to work effectively.

I'm not sure what industry you work in, but I work as a software developer and although I don't smoke, I step away from my desk at least every hour, if only to take a walk to the kitchen to get some water, or a slow walk to the toilet etc. It may only be for max 5 minutes, but it helps a lot. It's amazing how you can get fresh perspective on a problem etc when you take a step back away from your desk for a few minutes.

I'd be really surprised if a company took issue with people doing what they need to do, providing you're achieving the goals set out for you. Perhaps just do what you need to do and bring it up at your first 1:1 with your manager, or if they don't mention it and you're getting good feedback otherwise, keep quiet.

The only thing I would say is that people stepping away to smoke may get viewed in a different light to someone, say, popping away to get a glass of water or the like. As stated before, I don't smoke, but I've definitely seen a shift in attitude towards smokers at work in the UK in recent years and the numbers definitely seem to be dwindling in the smoking area down near the entrance to our building.

Still, if popping away for a cigarette helps you clear your head and the smell doesn't offend your colleagues then no harm done I say.

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    Yeah, smoking has a bit of a stigma with it. I plan to quit during the move and have been doing well towards it but I would still take my breaks. – Paul Muir Apr 6 '14 at 1:40
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    I agree actually that the smoking aspect is the thing that may be perceived as negative. People thinking "If I smoked, I'd get a 10 min break every hour" without realising that walking to get a coffee etc is the same thing – Fiona - myaccessible.website Apr 7 '14 at 8:39
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Every industry, and every firm, has its own attitudes about this sort of thing, so if you don't know for sure, you should play it safe when taking a new job: IMO you need to do three things in order to figure out how best to handle this:

  1. If possible, bring it up at an interview: "At my previous job, I sometimes took a few breaks during the day to clear my head. They knew I was a good worker so it wasn't a problem. Would that be OK here?"

    Note: This is a subject that should be taken up with extreme care - with the right person, at the right time.

  2. Before you start taking many breaks, establish yourself as a good, industrious worker. Create some kind of track record of productivity, so that you won't be branded as a new slacker.
  3. Observe your co-workers: What do the veterans do? What is considered acceptable for them? That will give you an idea of what is within bounds.
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