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I like to play quick games on my iPad/phone during lunch, and I'm concerned if it gives a bad impression. I'm salaried and get an hour for lunch. I eat in the break room usually, so I'm talking about being with other employees. No one's mentioned anything about it or given dirty looks so far.

Our contract explicitly prohibits playing games "during working hours" but this is only during lunch hour; that stipulation was put in because someone was playing games on their work computer instead of doing actual work. Generally the office environment is fairly laid back, and our senior programmer also plays games sometimes at lunch.

How can I determine if this still gives a bad impression? For what it's worth my boss is always out for lunch, so he never passes by the break room, but many other colleagues do.

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    I don't think there is any one answer to this question. – Nicole Apr 15 '12 at 0:52
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    @NickC that's why I tried to give as much info about my specific situation as possible – Rarity Apr 15 '12 at 2:49
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    If playing a game in your break room during your lunch break is a problem for your employer, it's time to spruce up your resume and find a better gig. – Jim In Texas Apr 15 '12 at 3:10
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    Not sure if this will qualify as an answer but I used to work for a place which had arcade games in the lunch rooms (wasn't a tech company either), so why not. – Karlson Apr 17 '12 at 18:14
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    Lunch break is also a good time to socialize with your coworkers. You may or may not consider that important. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Aug 6 '13 at 8:24

11 Answers 11

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Look around the room at lunch. Are others reading books, listening to their MP3 player, reading a newspaper, reading a non-technical magazine, watching CNN? If they are doing these things, and it is your personal phone/iPad why is it different? You could even be playing "words with friends" or some similar game, with somebody at the table.

If you are in the break room, and you haven't exceeded the allowable break time, why should anybody care? Oh some will, but they will be in the minority.

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    Agreed. Your lunch hour, your personal device while you're eating your lunch in the breakroom would yield no objections from me. – Jacob G Apr 14 '12 at 20:17
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    Games are entertainment, and as are other activities like reading magazines for passing the time or solving crossword puzzles. If your company has an unconditional disagreement with video games, it's more of an issue with their culture than their rules. – Chris C Apr 16 '12 at 18:50
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    but turn off the sound or use in-ear headphones please. – Formagella Dec 19 '14 at 23:32
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If you're on company premises, you are still representing the company, and should be professional about it. That means not doing anything that's going to create a hostile environment for others, or is going to embarrass the company in any way if a client/journalist/investor/prospective employee happens to walk by.

For most workplaces, that means most games are going to be okay on break, as long as you're in a clearly-defined break area. Certain workplaces aren't going to be okay with any games on site. A funeral home, for example. Certain games aren't going to be appropriate at any workplace due to controversy, like Grand Theft Auto for example. If you work for a game company, don't play a competitor's game at lunch. You get the idea. Just use your best judgement.

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    kinda strange advice about not playing a competitor's games. I mean, if you work for Ford, would your colleagues look down upon you if you choose to drive a Volvo? – tehnyit Jul 6 '12 at 13:18
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    I'm with @tehnyit on this one, it is usually encouraged in game studios that you play competitor's games. If your're working as a game designer, breaking down games (competitor or not) and reconstructing them is in your job description. The same applies if you're designing cars or any other object or appliance. An industrial/car/game/whatever designer has to know how things are built or else they can't design. – Spoike Jul 6 '12 at 13:58
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    @tehnyit: Actually at some companies you can get fired for driving a competitor's car onto company ground as a senior staff member. At least if that story from one of my professors isn't just made up... – ThiefMaster Jul 11 '12 at 14:39
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    @ThiefMaster If that is true, I would have second thoughts about working for such a company. Personal liberties must be kept separate from company loyalty. – tehnyit Jul 11 '12 at 15:18
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    @ThiefMaster Since all employees at auto companies get better pricing on their own company's cars than the public does and upper level managers at auto companies often get even better deals OR company cars, buying a competitor's car would be an expensive proposition. With employees often also being shareholders, it's really shooting oneself in the foot to do it. That said, I know that some Ford employees in the 1980s drove non-Ford cars. It made them rather unpopular with their co-workers, but I don't know of anyone who was fired for it. – David Navarre Jul 26 '12 at 16:17
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Your lunch hour is typically "off the clock" and tacked onto your working day, so IMO it's acceptable to do anything within reason during that time, especially if it's using your own equipment.

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    +1 - the only way I could see it being a problem would be if your device is on the corporate network and there's a blanket policy against using the corporate network for games. – voretaq7 Apr 14 '12 at 22:30
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    This really is the best answer. – Andy Aug 14 '13 at 23:32
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"Does this still give a bad impression? For what it's worth my boss is always out for lunch, so he never passes by the break room, but many other colleagues do."

I think this is the crucial line.

If you are even thinking about it, it means you don't find it totally comfortable as well.

Honestly, if that's the way you feel, whether or not the boss really feels that way becomes irrelevant and you should stop.

I play games during lunch breaks on my phone and I'm quite comfortable doing that. So much so that I only pause it when my boss wants to talk to me about something. I feel no real guilt because my work is up to date and even if I'm a little behind, I'm confident he knows me well enough to trust me to get back to schedule.

Now if I'm behind on my work and it's a reasonable schedule (or if I really feel no need to de-stress), I would be working even though it's what's left of my lunch hour because I think that's the right thing to do for ME.

TL;DR, if you are feeling guilty, try to figure out why. Until you get the "why" part sorted, you will never really be comfortable.

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The only way I could see this giving a bad impression would be if everyone else worked over lunch (or took much shorter breaks to get back to work quickly) - then they could think you're being less productive by playing games over lunch, although it'd still depend on what time you came in and left, etc.

If it's purely a question of what you're doing over break when everyone else is doing something non-work-related too, and you're playing on a personal device (and not on the big screen on the breakroom wall), I really doubt anyone reasonable would care.

Of course, there are some people out there who still think "games are for teenagers", but that's very different from giving a bad impression to the majority.

5

Does the employer let you leave the premise during lunch ? If so then it shouldn't make any difference when and what you do during your lunch.

If you can leave and play video games offsite, then you should be able to sit at our desk/break area and do the same thing. I don't think you should need to leave work just to enjoy your break.

If your company feels they need to control everything you do during a break, then maybe it's time to find a different workplace.

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A couple of thoughts:

Whose resources are being used?

It sounds like it's your equipment, your network connection and your time - so most of your company's issues are covered. I've seen situations where any of those three are an issue - game sites can put malicious software onto your computer, some games hog bandwidth or CPU that are not yours exclusively, and of course they don't pay you to play while you're working.

If only resource you use is the break room itself then you are more or less having the same impact as someone reading a book.

Culture - what's the engagement factor?

What do most folks do in your particular break room? Do they chat? read? game? all of the above?

If other people are in there doing "don't bug me I'm by myself" things - like reading and gaming - then I'd say you're fine. If it's mostly a chatting/hanging out place - then be aware that you may be perceived as odd or antisocial - and that may not be your intent. If you're OK with being odd - go for it anyway - it's your break - do what relaxes you (to a point). Just realize that norms are funny things, and your "by myself" time may be seen by others as being standoffish unless there's a shared expectation that the break room is where people hang out by themselves.

Don't bug people.

Obviously turn the sound off (or wear headphones with little sound leakage), and watch any wild gesticulations that may be involved. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes gaming is a pretty high energy experience... probably skip those types of games so as not to bug other people sharing the space.

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    +1 for "don't bug people" The sound issue is the main point that all other answers are missing. If you're moving all over the place and making all kinds of noises are emanating from your device, that could be quite distracting. – jmort253 Jul 26 '12 at 1:04
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As other have noted, it depends on where and it depends upon what the game is. If you are in the break room and everyone else is engaged in non-work activities then you should be fine as long as you aren't playing a game that is likely to be controversial (i.e. Grand Theft Auto) or contains objectionable activities.

Depending upon the industry that you are in, puzzle games might actually reflect somewhat positively as it shows that you have problem solving skills which can be desirable skills in an employee. Consider two employees reading a book, one is reading a non-fiction book about something that is mildly indirectly related to work while the other is reading a random fiction book, which do you think is going to look more impressive to an employer?

In the event that someone does object to playing the game, I would say you need to be careful about how you address the game playing, but depending upon the type of game, you could point out others playing sudoku or doing a crossword puzzle and ask how that is different?

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Well, there's nothing wrong with playing games as long as it's within your lunch/break time.It doesn't matter to most people. The Technical Lead in my company spends more time playing games than anyone else. And he's been Employee Of The Month once! ;-)

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It will depend on the culture of the place and you will need to judge that for yourself.

I know one place where people would not consider entering the break room without a tie (I am not making this up). If they don't have one for some reason, they would go eat out somewhere else. That's not a written rule and it certainly would not be legal to fire someone for breaking it but the informal pressure is strong that people just don't try it (they are all lawyer types).

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Change the context of the situation. "Playing game" to "Watching Football" Still hold the same sterotype? How would you feel about someone watching the play offs and highlights during there lunch break?

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    I don't understand, why would I care what someone else is doing in their lunch break if it has nothing to do with me? – Kilisi Apr 29 '16 at 8:43

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