Office Culture



I have started working  with a small residential architecture firm recently. I have noticed no one takes a proper 1 hour lunch break most people eat at their desk. (  I have been told the owners prefer if you do not go outside and stick around to help out !!)

No one leaves at 6 pm . Everyone stays late. 

I cannot agree with none of the above. Since I am starting out should I follow their culture or follow what I prefer which is taking a decent lunch break ( i usually  do a quick 15 minute work out that is why I am hesitant to give it up)

Thank you

Jan 25, 17 11:03 am
Non Sequitur

Is your lunch hour unpaid? If so, it's yours to do what you want with it.

Jan 25, 17 11:06 am

If you're getting your work done, it shouldn't matter how long your lunch break is.  If they aren't paying you for lunch, just go with the timeframe your employee manual says.  If others aren't taking advantage, that is their problem. 

Work isn't life.  Too many people get confused on this. 

Jan 25, 17 11:17 am

start your own residential design firm, then it won't be a problem

Jan 25, 17 11:17 am

a) find a new job

b) always try to take a lunch break - this will actually improve your production not deter.  It is the short breaks where your subconscious mind gets to ponder problems to be solved and come up with better more effective ways to approach work.

Jan 25, 17 11:25 am

That's slavery, you ain't a monkey so take your lunch.

Jan 25, 17 11:26 am
x intern
I agree with everyone but you may face repercussions
It's not right but some arch firm owners are a holes
They think since they had/have to work like that their employees should too. I would start looking and stick it out until you can move on. Or do what you want and see how it plays out. All he can do is fire you.
Jan 25, 17 11:54 am

masochist -

 Look, there's going to be a recession in 1 - 2 years(premier Trumpkov will bring it on). if you are perceived as "a bad fit" you will be the first to go - 

Jan 25, 17 12:06 pm

OP, where are you located? East/West coast/central etc.?

While I agree with the many viewpoints above, it's tough to simply resolve to finding another job/take that lunch break when job prospects are grim. Nevertheless, send out your job application package and see how it goes.

Jan 25, 17 12:12 pm

F that-

I worked at firms like that.  I had a Principal write the staff a letter to express his disappointment that we didn't "redouble our efforts" and work harder, after he cut our hours to 3-4 days per week.

You do what you think is best for you.  Yes there might be repercussions, but guess what?  They already don't respect you if you "can't" eat lunch or they don't respect your home life.

Start working on a new job.

Jan 25, 17 12:27 pm

What state are you in?  In my current state there's no legal requirement for a lunch break, paid or otherwise, and employers tend to know that and take advantage of it. Some other states have a legal requirement for a meal break (usually a minimum of 1/2 hour, unpaid) if the total work period is 8 hours or more.  If you're in one of those states you could anonymously "remind" your employers of that, and/or post one of those DOL posters about it in the break room or wherever such things are posted in your firm, and if those things don't matter then you can call the DOL and eventually they'll audit time sheets and scold your firm - though this only works for hourly employees as there's no real way to verify one way or another if salaried people are taking breaks.

But short of a legal solution, sometimes you have to just take things into your own hands and be the one who bucks the norm.  If you need to go for a walk every day to clear your head and just get some space from you and the office, just do it.  Yes you may get backlash - up to and including being the first on the layoff list - but if the worst happens then just move on and look for somewhere with a healthier culture.  Don't sacrifice your health and peace of mind for your career.

Jan 25, 17 1:31 pm
Non Sequitur
I find it funny that a place without lunch breaks would have a break room available to post such DOL stuff.
Jan 25, 17 2:45 pm

^ It's called a toilet/restroom...or in some places, heads ;)

Jan 25, 17 2:48 pm

NS: good point.  There has to be a place somewhere where they put the DOL posters - some of them are legally required to be posted in an area to which all employees have regular access.  I was just thinking of the little kitchenette area that's referred to in my office as the "break room" though it doesn't really have room for anyone to sit and take a break - but then we don't have a culture of not letting people leave the premises either...

Jan 25, 17 4:19 pm

Look for a new job on your lunch break.

Jan 25, 17 4:25 pm

At which point in your career are you? I find it difficult that a mid-career or senior level person would not have asked about the culture before taking a position.  The way I was raised, as a newbie you're first in/ last out until you know you're exceeding expectations, then just exceed expectation (without necessarily longer hours).  Like others noted its the work that you do and not the hours worked (when you're new it typically is a bit extra time because you're learning standards and process of an office).

Sure you can take all the breaks you want and do the bare minimum, it's perfectly fine - but if you're doing the bare minimum and everyone else is chipping in the extra, your coworkers will be weary at best, and maybe resentful (we've fired a few because they'd come in late, leave for lunch and not getting anything done in the meantime). 

I've been in offices that the 40 hr work week was maintained by all - some got their work done, others didn't; failing to meet deadlines led to losing work so few people got raises or bonuses, but most didn't care.  Offices where everyone was excited by the work and put in a little extra led to more jobs and more lucrative jobs, eventually we all got handsome raises/bonuses/perks and learned to work at a good clip and not work so much OT.  The offices where it's a mixed bag were the worst - everyone knows who brings the money in and who is slacking; it gets toxic fast.  I'm not saying work 80hr weeks all the time, but 45-50 when you're starting won't kill you either. (though I'll say the 65-80s really helped me get through IDP).

Jan 25, 17 6:12 pm

In the shit i work at, everyone eats at their desks most of the time. Even though the bosses are ok with people taking time out for lunch, the employees (mostly kids) are so fucking scared that they dont even stand up.

Jan 26, 17 12:11 am

It's called Slavitecture folks, welcome to the Neu-future. If you dont stand for anything, youll fall for anything...

Jan 26, 17 1:05 am

Thanks for your input! I am based in NYC. I will stick to taking my lunch break and squeezing a quick work out in it. Till my bosses actually call me out on it.

Jan 26, 17 9:40 am

Ours is an office culture of 'work hard, play hard.'. We get overloaded with projects and tasks and generally work our asses off, but then on Friday we all go out for an extended lunch before office 'social hour' at 4pm. Nobody looks at the clock so long as the work gets done, that's the trade.

Jan 26, 17 9:51 am

I have always thought it is a very good idea to leave the premises for a lunch break. It gives you time in a place where if the boss comes in he is treated like everybody else. In a large firm with a cafeteria you have the problem of who sits where and who defers to who. To hell with it for an hour a day at least.

Jan 26, 17 9:55 am

Presuming the lunch hour is UNpaid, if your fellow employees are working through their lunch hour, they are donating an hour of their time for free.  Ridiculous.  Any firm that begrudges someone even eating is not a firm worth working for.

Jan 26, 17 11:11 am

I eat at my desk, but I haven't left after 5 in 8 years; before I worked at 2 large corporations, but the "we all have to be friends and do stuff together" was so fake and inappropriate when you have 22 yr old without any commitments and 45 yr old with 3 kids, sometimes felt like having a family was a handicap in that world, luckily I found this job with real people.

Jan 26, 17 11:50 am

at my office, we work through lunch or have meetings - our clients investors are pushing us harder to get as many projects through the pipe line as possible before the recession hits and when it does - its going to get tougher from here on out. 

Jan 26, 17 12:06 pm

I've only ever worked at one place where I felt pressure to work through lunch and eat at my desk. That place was such a terrible place to work I never stopped looking for another job when I started working there. I went against the pressure and didn't eat my lunch at my desk but I got my work done. A few months later when I told the firm owner I was leaving to work somewhere else, he tried to get me to stay because he could see I was more productive than most of the other people who had been working there longer. The moral of the story is that if you do good work, get it done quickly and efficiently, and you impress the boss(es) in the process ... it really doesn't matter where you eat. 

Jan 26, 17 12:17 pm

^ you should have went in the bosses office and ate your lunch.

Jan 26, 17 5:33 pm

^ he wouldn't have cared, he was never in there anyway. The boss wasn't all that bad, it was the second in command who took charge while the boss was away that was the source of all the terribleness in that office. The boss was never in the office enough to make it bad.

Jan 26, 17 5:55 pm

A midday break is just common sense.  I'm blown away that there are firms out there that have a problem with it.

Masochist's boss will ban bathroom breaks next.   The restroom can be returned to the landlord or converted to additional workspace.

Jan 27, 17 9:46 am

^ I used to have to record my bathroom time on my time sheet. I averaged 15 minutes a day in the loo. There's a lot of firms not worth working for and when it is an employees market like it is now, it is time to let those firms die and settle to the bottom.

Jan 27, 17 11:14 am

when it is an employees market like it is now, it is time to let those firms die and settle to the bottom

Enjow it while you can - Not for long, Trump will send us into a deep recession in 18 months

then its back to things as they were in 09'

Jan 27, 17 11:54 am

 I used to have to record my bathroom time on my time sheet. I averaged 15 minutes a day in the loo

Hope you didn't have to provide a stool sample to prove that you weren't just going down the hall to read a magazine.

Jan 27, 17 12:07 pm

My employer encourages us to take my breaks and go to the bathroom..It's kinda the law here.

Jan 27, 17 12:17 pm

I start with the assumption that graduate architects are professionals and, as such, don't warrant the kind of 'big brother' supervision that the OP and others describe.

Any firm that establishes a culture where such tight control is the norm clearly doesn't understand the essence of professionalism. Such firms don't deserve your talents and you should move on asap.

Now, having said that, I am aware of firms that provide a 1-hour lunch break, but also allow staff who take only 1/2 hour for their lunch to leave 1/2 hour early in the evening (or come in 1/2 hour late in the morning). In such instances staff who wish to take advantage of this flexibility will typically eat lunch at their desks.

Of course, when firms do provide such flexibility it is vital that all staff members refrain from abusing such privileges and reciprocate the trust given to them by the firm.

Jan 27, 17 12:21 pm

I wish more offices would treat employees like professionals instead of hourly laborers. When you find an office that does, it makes all the difference in the world. I don't know if it's the architect ego/the need to dominate all aspects of their practice, or if architects are simply distrusting of their employees. Actually, it's probably both. 

Jan 27, 17 12:26 pm

EI, it's the attitude of "I was treated this way, so why should you be any different"?"  That attitude is then reinforced by the Stockholm Syndrome and the cult of the starchitect.

Jan 27, 17 12:36 pm

geezer: Over-supervision is not always the result of a hazing mentality -- often such rigidity comes about because some undisciplined staff repeatedly violate firm policy and established norms of behavior. When this happens too often some firms start to clamp down by implementing more rules and supervision.

I prefer that professionals act responsibly on their own -- if a firm offers flexibility then that freedom should not be abused. Staff members who continually abuse office hours, disregard policies about personal phone / internet activity, etc. should first be counseled and then, if improvement does not take place, removed from the firm as a 'poor fit'. This is only fair to those employees who do abide by established office standards.

Jan 27, 17 12:54 pm

We do flex time like quizzical mentions. Our employee handbook says 1 hour of unpaid break during the workday.  It's optional, however;  if want to come in, work 8 hours straight with no break, and then go home, that's ok.

You'd be surprised how many people don't bother to read the employee manual, though.

Jan 27, 17 1:36 pm

I'm self-employed now and can sit on the pot for 10 minutes if I want or take a 3 hour lunch if I want. I'm not really employable in the regular sense I have learned. I do much better on my own.

Jan 27, 17 3:00 pm

^haha I onced worked were they had (2) floors, one of the owners made it very clear in a staff meeting that only clients, guest, female employees & himself could use the 1st floor restroom. I thgt it was unethical and very strange but it was one of my first jobs so I made sure to never use the 1st floor restroom during business hours

Jan 27, 17 3:26 pm

So I don't bill bathroom breaks, but what about those great ideas that come while in the shower? It's not a myth. 

Jan 27, 17 4:14 pm

One place I worked, where there were several branch offices, the employee manual said that the firm offered flex time, and that everyone was "encouraged" to take an hour lunch break - but the partner in our office disagreed with the policies and insisted that everyone arrive at 8, and that trips outside the office be kept to minimum essentials, like dr. appointments.   A new guy started working there and made a fuss over "it's company policy that we get flex time, and lunch breaks".  We told him the situation with the partner there, who was a hot-headed tyrant - but he decided to complain to the HR department which was in another branch office.  About a week later we got a company-wide email "reminding" everyone that it was the firm's policy to offer flex time in all branches, and that we were all strongly encouraged to take lunch breaks, and feel free to leave the office for lunch.  That guy was fired a week after that - the partner in our office said it was because of lack of work, but we all knew it was because he was annoyed that someone went around his authority.  But the rest of us did start going out for lunch, and taking advantage of flex time, and there were no other repercussions.   I feel sad for that guy, since he's the one who dared to do something and he's the one who suffered while the rest of us benefited from it.

Jan 27, 17 5:07 pm

^ many times in order for something to live, something has to die, that said you guys should have at least tracked the guy down and took him to lunch or dinner

Jan 30, 17 4:49 pm

His a martyr and a hero in my book. One day, people will write books about him

Jan 31, 17 9:56 pm

^ i have a photo of him at my desk.

Jan 31, 17 10:03 pm

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