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I eat lunch at my desk. Can’t I just leave work early?

Businesswoman in cubicle with laptop and stacks of files

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Dear Corporate Governess
Should eating lunch at your desk while you work allow you to leave early? Some of my co-workers are pushing for this, but those of us who lunch out disagree. We think we get more done after a midday break. What's your take?
–Roger S., Ottawa

Dear Roger
Hmm. As someone who worked at one time from an office along a desolate strip of warehouses with nothing but a staff kitchen or a bit of unshaded concrete for refuge, I know that obligatory lunch breaks can be downright torturous. I would have much preferred to inhale a tuna sandwich over my e-mails and get out earlier, especially as it was a long commute. So, I'm with your colleagues, particularly those with daycare deadlines or a pup waiting with his legs crossed. But research on the workplace from the University of California, Davis suggests that getting away at lunch can give your creative juices a boost. People's brains need a break from their tasks to recharge. So, you may, in fact, be more productive than your neighbour hunched over his keyboard stinking up the place with his takeout fried chicken. Go ahead and lead the charge to get out of the office at lunch, waving Professor Kimberly Elsbach's study under the noses of disbelievers. Just the act of getting up from your chair could be considered heart healthy as well. As for those who want to knock off early, I think you've just ruined their argument.

Dear Corporate Governess
People at my work have conversations right over my desk like I'm not even there. Sure it's an "open concept" environment, but couldn't they at least walk over to the other person's workstation?
–Bethany D., Toronto

Dear Bethany
Have you tried interpretive dance? Once you have their attention, they may recognize you're in the room. Then you can either join in the conversations rather than be rudely ignored or introduce yourself with something like, "I'm here. Just sayin'."

While the idea behind "open concept" is to encourage spontaneity, creativity and collaboration, it's also meant to be inclusive. A private conversation between two people around or over the heads of others who clearly aren't part of it is rude. That's easy to forget when we're so used to hearing random voices everywhere in public spaces – that guy on the bus shouting into his phone or the mother admonishing her kid in the grocery line. We blank that out as so much noise, but we should expect more civility in the workplace. Your colleagues need to get up and walk a few steps, even if you have to take them by the hand and waltz them there.

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