How to Deal with Lunch Break Interruptions

If you’re an hourly worker with an unpaid lunch hour, it can be frustrating to be routinely interrupted while on your break. Ask A Manager’s Allison Green recently advised someone with just that problem.

Despite using a sign to signal being on his lunch break, a reader expressed that his coworkers often interrupted his unpaid breaks with work-related questions. In response, Green suggested the reader talk to his manager while understanding that not everyone respects break time:

“If there’s not a culture of formal breaks, it can come across as overly rigid to insist on protecting your break time — particularly if you’re the only person doing that. The answer to that isn’t “so just accept that you’re going to have to do work on unpaid breaks.” Rather, it’s to change the way you’re managing those breaks so that interruptions become less possible — by eating somewhere other than in your office or by having a clearer sign or by having your boss set clearer expectations to people on your behalf.”

More likely, Green says, is to expect a boss who will encourage you to turn coworkers away with work requests until after your break: “Your boss is very likely to tell you that you should tell people to come back later — which you can then do without any worries. But it’s possible that instead she’ll tell you that she wants you to be responsive to questions from particular people and so you should answer them, charge the time, and extend your break by an equivalent amount.”

What should I do when coworkers interrupt me on my lunch break? | Ask A Manager

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