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We all have different jobs, different responsibilities, different duties, and different schedules. But, no matter who you are, everyone has that government-mandated break to eat whatever sad sandwich you threw together that morning or left-overs from last night’s dinner. Whether you brown bag or order in, eat in the cafeteria or at your desk, respectfully cover your meal with a paper towel as you reheat it or allow the tomato sauce from your pasta to splatter the inside of the communal microwave willy-nilly, we all have lunch.
Lunch spans all rungs of the corporate ladder. From the janitor to the CEO, everyone takes a lunch break. There are a lot of aspects of lunch that divide us, from what you eat to where you choose to eat. But an underappreciated aspect of lunch is the when.
You see, when you take lunch reveals a lot about yourself. It subtly groups you, as different people with different mindsets roll through the communal cafeteria for their respective “lunch shifts.” Pick the right time, you can be getting some quality face time with your manager. Pick the wrong time, well you risk being the outcast who is still hungry during the early afternoon meetings. Here are your options.
11 a.m. or earlier
Come on. Really? This is not lunch. This is second breakfast. And I say that knowing that you absolutely are going to have an early afternoon “snack” of a sandwich, chips, and a 32 oz diet Coke. Get the hell out of here with this bullshit.
I’m sorry that you don’t have the willpower or gastrointestinal stability to make it more than two hours without consuming an entire meal, but have some pride and do what the rest of us do. Squirrel away desk snacks to nosh on constantly while you count the minutes to eat an actual lunch. And tell Frodo, Sam, and all the boys down at the Shire that I say hey.
11 – 11:30 a.m.
You’re the slacker of the office. Your first two hours of the workday are spent reading ESPN, Facebook, Buzzfeed, Reddit, or this wonderful website, and now, with no new content to entertain you and dreading the notion of doing your actual job you fall back on lunch to save you.
You’re constantly trying to dip out at 4 or 4:30 without any of the bosses see you (they do, by the way), and you are damn sure going to stretch this lunch to the full forty-five minutes you were allotted. After all, the government mandates the company gives you this break, so you’ll stay in that cafeteria seat, mindlessly browsing Twitter or Bumble, even though you finished eating your sandwich twenty minutes ago. This is also your justification for taking three fifteen minute smoke breaks even though you don’t smoke, and for taking a twenty-minute bathroom break that causes everyone to take a wide berth around the bathroom for the next hour or so.
11:30 AM – 12 p.m.
You’re probably one of those people who is really into fitness. You may meal prep every weekend, but you also need about twenty minutes of uninterrupted time with the kitchen appliances every day to fully prepare your lunch.
It’s not just a matter of nuking that chicken and rice to get your macros up. Nah, you gotta heat the sauces, chop some fresh veggies (god forbid you let it get soggy from the fridge), and maybe even run your Magic Bullet to make a creatine smoothie. I’m proud of you for the commitment, but please stop with all the e-mails to me trying to get me to support the initiative to get the company to convert a level of the garage to a gym.
12 PM – 12:30 p.m.
Ah, the office drone. To you, lunch hasn’t changed much since high school. You pack up around noon, use this brief window of freedom to hang out with your friends (or co-workers that you are friendly with, at best), and ignore the daunting amount of work you’ll be returning to once lunch ends.
You’re taking your lunch break with the rest of the herd, one of the mass that crowds the cafeteria or lines at Chipotle once the clock strikes noon. You’re not concerned with how long it will take to get your lunch. You’ll be eating for the entire duration of your lunch break. Not because you’re trying to maximize your time getting paid but also not doing work, but because you’re just using this time as a break from the monotony.
12:30 – 1 p.m.
You’re either management, friends with management, or you’re the office kiss-ass. If you’re management, you’ve chosen this time to eat likely because you had some call, report, or obligation that delayed your lunch. It’s also a nice opportunity for you to patrol the nearly-empty office and get a vibe for how productive your subordinates have been all day. And if one of those subordinates happens to be your buddy, well she will wait up for you before eating.
On the other hand, you could also be timing your lunch with your manager’s, cravenly taking the opportunity to spend time with him on the line at the nearby sandwich shop. Maybe you’ll sit and eat at the next table at the cafeteria, engaging in small talk or just pretending not to be eavesdropping on the manager’s conversation about quarterly earnings. You probably heat up something smelly as hell in the microwave and don’t realize how much your co-workers hate you.
1 PM – 1:30 p.m.
Unlike the office drone, you’ve actually given your lunch break some serious thought. 1 PM is equidistant in time between the start and end of the day, meaning that your afternoon will take less time and energy than your morning. In addition, by 1 PM most of the general crowd will have trickled out of the cafeteria or sandwich shop. You’ll be able to eat, alone and undisturbed, in a quick, easy manner. You’re playing chess with your lunch routine, while the rest of your co-workers are playing checkers.
1:30 – 2 p.m.
Look at you. You know what you are, eating long after everyone else has finished and gotten back to work? You’re a fucking deal closer.
You didn’t choose to eat at 1:30, you’ve just been working all morning, looked up midway through your third client call and realized it was after 1. No one plans to eat at 1:30, they just fall into it out of necessity. All around the cafeteria, you’ll see your fellow weary travelers. Some with earbuds still in as they shovel a sandwich into their mouth with a muted call in one ear. Others take this fifteen to twenty-minute respite to scroll through Twitter, see how their stock portfolio is doing, or check golf scores. Sure none of you are eating anything that could technically be called a full meal, most of you are losing your hair due to stress (including the women), and no one has slept more than four hours. But this is the den of champions. Hold your head high.
2 p.m. or later
You missed lunch, or you’re one of those weird losers who does intermittent fasting. Either way, enjoy eating alone while everyone else runs out the clock until 5. .
*Note, this timeline assumes a typical 9-5 work schedule. It should be adjusted to reflect your daily schedule.