The Break Is Broken

Back in my college days at NMSU, I was a good student with aspirations of graduating and getting a good job.

Round about my junior year, the business college started talking to the students about considering going on a co-op. This meant taking a semester off from school to take a job in a real office environment.

The goal was to get college students a more substantial experience than just a summer internship along with providing great fodder for our resumes upon graduation.

It seemed like a good idea to me, so I applied.

With my business background, I was picked up by a bank in Albuquerque.

I left Las Cruces and moved into an efficiency apartment in the downtown area. I started my first grown up job in January and worked through July of that year. The pay was terrible but the job was kind of interesting. I was an internal auditor for the then thriving bank (that no longer exists).

I got to travel with my team on the company jet to branches all over New Mexico to look at loans, review the criteria for lending, assess the borrower, check financials, and assign grades to the various loans. Based on the loan grades, the bank would be able to better value their portfolio. I’m sure they were also packaging and selling off loans too.

As a twenty year old, I got to delve into the financials of some of the most well known names in Albuquerque and the state. I learned how to value cattle and farm equipment, oil wells and drilling tools, and the inventory of various well known businesses in the area.

My desk was located near the small loan collections department, so I also learned a whole lot while listening to those verbally nasty collections agents all day long.

That gig at the bank was the first and only time I worked a job where I was required to take breaks during the work day.

I’d come in at 8:00, work until 10:00 then we’d all go upstairs to the break room to drink terrible coffee and cuss and discuss for fifteen minutes.

Back to work around 10:15, I’d work until noon then took one hour for lunch. It was expected we’d leave our desks for that hour, so we’d head back upstairs to the break room or on sunny days we’d all go outside on the plaza.

Back at work at 1:00, we’d take another break from 3:00 to 3:15, then leave the office by 5:00. No one stayed late. We all actually left at 5:00

I’d often thought, in my youthful exuberance, that I could have worked during that half hour of break time I took each day. I thought I could get more work done without that time. I mean heck! I can eat a sandwich at my desk and get even MORE work done!

Yeah. I know….

Today, I miss the lunch break. I miss enforced coffee breaks. When did we all start to think it extra moral or totally essential to work straight through the day and extra hours too and never leave the desk?

This is not good for our collective mental health.

Plus, if you must know, lately my right wrist hurts a lot. It aches all day and keeps me awake at night.

This is not a good sign. I’ve called in the ergo team at work to evaluate my workspace and my doctor is sending me to be fit for a wrist brace.

Also, my coworkers and I rarely get the chance to just sit back for fifteen minutes, sip some bad coffee and cuss and discuss something other than work.

Sort of a tragedy, really.

Just an aside…I really like my job and I dig my boss. I’m just working A LOT of hours.

Photo by Adria Navarro Mestres and used royalty free from stock.xchng.

This week’s Theme Thursday is: break

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  • Alan

    Fun post, Karen.

    I’m not sure if I’ve watched the “death of the coffee break” happen right before my eyes, or if I’ve just happened to work at a bunch of places where they never existed in the first place. I’d go with the latter.

    As it is, I’m on the clock as I read this very post. I’m pretty sure “the Man” knows that its subjects sneak away to the friendly confines of the interwebs now and again while “working,” and so they feel justified in not blessing us with official breaks.

    I just can’t stand the thought of sitting in one place working on the same thing for 4+ hours. That’s cruel and unusual, particularly if you spend that time in a 6’x6′ gray cubicle. Sometimes I get up and haunt soemone’s cube to ask a question that could just as easily be broached via email or IM. But, I have to move. I have to interface with something that’s not perfectly square shaped.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Alan – I, er, am certain I don’t spend ANY time whatsoever on the interwebs.

    Heh, yeah, ok, excellent point.

    That said, taking a break on the interwebs is still sitting at the desk. I really miss actually rising from the chair.

    Ah well. Nostalgia. It ain’t what it used to be.

  • Don

    Here in the US, for hourly employees, it is required that after every two hours a person is to have a 15 minute paid break, and after every four hours a non-paid 30 minute break. Federal law requires it. Salaried employees are to get the same breaks, but the timing is not required. That said, salaried employees are also supposed to get paid overtime if they work over 40 hours per week, but who does that, aside from the US Government which watches that VERY closely!?


  • Karen Fayeth

    Don – Yeah, I know that many union folks are still required to take breaks, but salaried folks don’t usually get that same expectation.

    I’d like to take back the breaks. I think it’s more civilized that way.

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