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I've seen several people in there workplace, within their confined area in the office, who were working. I've also seen people who were supposed to be working, but were, instead, tweeting (or had the "Twitter-Jitters" if you will) or on Facebook or another social networking site.

Is this frowned upon within the average workplace? Is it unprofessional? Do most companies/businesses have rules against this?

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    Is your question really about taking breaks -- which in some places is legally mandated -- or about appearing as if one is doing "unproductive" things during the workday, in plain sight? – jcmeloni Apr 18 '12 at 1:05
  • From the FAQ: “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. that is really what the question as written feels like. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 18 '12 at 1:59
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    Consider that social networking isn't always unproductive--at my workplace it's expected that we all spend some time on Twitter because that's where much professional networking/conversation takes place. – sheepeeh Apr 18 '12 at 13:15
  • @Chad In what way? This question is a perfectly constructive question. There is only one right answer. – Dynamic May 31 '12 at 10:38
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I don't think there is a single correct answer about it.

  • Some workplaces have a very relaxed culture — you'll find people playing ping pong at 10am and 3pm.

    These same places are unlikely to judge someone too harshly for web-surfing, sitting on a couch, or chatting to a coworker, unless those activities are too frequent or get complaints.

    Generally, the perspective/attitude of these cultures is that a mind needs to have breaks in order to be productive at other times. These cultures are often highly dependent on creativity. As Don Draper said, "You came here because we do this better than you and part of that is letting our creatives be unproductive until they are."

  • Some workplaces actively block distracting websites and set schedules for break rooms — I've worked at places that took this approach, blocking youtube.com, facebook.com and stating that the ping pong table (at least until the ping pong table was taken away) was only to be used during lunch and after hours.

    These workplaces (meaning executives, managers, and even peers) are, in my opinion, very likely to judge people for "unplanned" breaks such as web surfing.

  • There are likely to be workplaces in between these two extremes. Again, there's no single answer — you'll have to assess the environment for yourself.

In either case, you've got to get your work done, and/or at least avoid being found slacking/relaxing a majority of the time to be held in high regard as a motivated, productive worker.

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    +1, also good to keep in mind that in places that are more relaxed there are expectations for workers to go "above-and-beyond" when it really matters. For example, it may be expected for workers to stay late or work weekends without having to be asked or paid extra. In places with strict rules about what can and can't be done on the clock, people are typically walking out the door at one second past 5pm. – Angelo Apr 18 '12 at 14:04
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It is important for your mental health to take short "breaks" occasionally. Most people tend to find it difficult to concentrate intensely on one thing for more than 20-30 minutes, so after a brief bout of "deep thought", it's actually good to shift your focus to something completely unrelated. Even better is to stand up, stretch the legs, and walk about for a minute, which is also good for maintaining your physical health if you're stuck behind a desk all day.

In a relaxed working environment this is easier to do. If your boss is a real B***D and frowns on anything that keeps you healthy during your work hours, then this is something to either negotiate, or to do discretely. As long as you are getting your work done and meeting your obligations, taking occasional short breaks should not be a problem.

However, if you are sitting around playing games, updating your blog and other stuff, then you are probably on very dodgy grounds ethically. If you are meant to be working, but instead simply taking time out to essentially screw around, then you'll end up with a poor performance review, and possibly being shown the door.

The line between how unprofessional or not your behaviour is viewed will come down largely to company culture and your relationship with your boss, but will also depend on how you go about taking your breaks, and your reasoning why.

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  • Very good answer. Social networking is not a productive break—a productive break involves stepping away, clearing your head, and physical movment. +1 Note: I think you mean discreetly, not discretely. – Kazark Feb 21 '13 at 21:31
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One thing that people often misunderstand is that even in a relaxed culture, you are being paid to produce. If Joe surfs the web all the time and never meets deadlines or sells product or whatever his job is, then yes this is a problem. If Jane also does this but also solves the hard problems, meets the deadlines and keeps the client happy, well then it is less of a problem.

I remember one really relaxed place I worked where we had a sales guy who was really relaxed about his tasks (and hours for that matter), but he didn't sell anything and so was let go in about 3 months. If you are going to be seen slacking, you had better also be seen producing.

In a more bureaucratic environment, it might be a problem all around as they find it hard to explain to the 9,000 mediocre employees why the 10 great employees have privileges that they do not.

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