Why in the world did I put lunch as a topic? It’s not that hard. You find a place outside the office to eat lunch or you eat at your desk.
Life is never that simple.
Let’s put it this way. Under normal circumstances, you will spend roughly 250 hours each year going to lunch during the work week. There are office rules as to how you spend this time. But you have a couple of choices.
Option 1: Robot Mode
Option 1 is to approach this time during the day like a robot. Under this option, you approach lunch like you were a kid in middle school. You watch the clock strike noon and follow the crowd to the break room or you go to lunch by yourself. At 1pm, you return to your desk (assuming you did not eat lunch at your desk) and continue the rest of your workday.
Option 2: Professional Mode
Under Option 2, you approach lunch as a professional. You approach lunch as an opportunity rather than a hindrance to getting work done. Obviously, there will be plenty of times that you follow the path as the robots in Option 1. But you realize that Option 1 should be the exception rather than the rule. Part of developing your career within and outside the firm is developing social connections with fellow employees and contacts outside the firm that can help your career. You cannot wait to develop these connections when your career is struggling. They need to be developed when you are doing well so that when these contacts are aware of opportunities that they will look at you as a candidate for them.
Under Option 2, you should be looking to go to lunch at a local or regional firm with someone inside or outside the firm at least twice a week. At a national firm, you need to take a little time to study the environment to determine the frequency.
It is ok to go to lunch regularly with the same group of people as long as you are occasionally trying to add new people to the mix. The idea is to continually broaden the goodwill and information flow that is coming to you in the firm. The advantage that you have with using the lunch hour is that you do not need to limit yourself to a particular day.
If a coworker is not available one day then make an offer next week when you are going to lunch with a couple of other people. There are some people who are always determined to be robots. But most of them will be happy that you made the offer to include them in the group. Unfortunately, most of them will never realize that the extra ten minutes they save by taking a quick lunch adds much less value than the long-term social and health benefits from taking a break.
Under Option 2, you understand that lunch can be used for personal time as well as lunch. No one is going to care that you spent fifteen minutes eating lunch at forty five minutes on personal tasks. For example, there are many occasions when I went to the health club during lunch and spent thirty minutes in the steam room and sauna. As a result, I was completely refreshed and much more efficient for the rest of the day.
As part of your planning for lunch, you need to have researched where you and your coworkers can go to lunch. You will find that accountants tend to be very passive about making a lunch choice. You will hear the following conversation all of the time:
Accountant 1: Hi accountant 2. Let’s go to lunch.
Accountant 2: Sounds good to me.
Accountant 1: Where would you like to go?
Accountant 2: I don’t know. Where would you like to go?
Accountant 1: I don’t care. Anywhere is fine with me.
The conversation is then followed by the two accountants looking at the ceiling or staring at the floor until one of them thinks of a restaurant. The other accountant immediately agrees to it and they go to lunch.
Therefore, you need to have prior experience with a few restaurants in the area before offering to go to lunch. You should know how to get to these places by yourself. If you made the offer to go to lunch then you should be prepared to drive if necessary. You should have the following list of places already researched before you make your offer:
- Hamburgers. It needs to be a place other than the standard national chains such as McDonald’s or Wendy’s. The reason is that you want the place to be somewhere that you can talk with the other person. But the place should be inexpensive and have a friendly atmosphere.
- Generic restaurant. Have a couple of restaurant choices that make it easy for the group to agree to it without all of them having to get the same type of food. A couple of examples are Chili’s or Bennigan’s.
- Mexican, Chinese or seafood restaurants. It is ok for these places to be chain restaurants. The key with the Mexican place is to be comfortable that the food at the restaurant is not too spicy.
- Japanese, Indian or anything exotic. Avoid making these suggestions in any group setting. If it is to a single person you should not make the offer until you have been to lunch with them on several occasions. If someone does not like the restaurant choice it is much harder for them to find something that is generic on the menu.
Don’t Break This Rule
The next rule may seem obvious. But I have seen enough people break it (especially people who prefer robot mode) that I have to state it.
If someone in the firm who has a title above you asks you to lunch then you should plan to go.
If you have a conflict then you should try to remove the conflict. Clearly, there will be times (especially during tax season) when you cannot accept. But you should consider that the tax manager or partner chose you for a reason. Sometimes it is merely someone in management trying to get to know who works for them. But there are times when they need to discuss an issue with you (either good or bad) and they wanted to discuss it casually outside the office. Therefore, you should try to find a way to attend and work a little later that day if needed.
If you found these tips helpful please consider sharing this post with your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Thanks.
Latest posts by Bill Meador, CPA, JD (see all)
- Learn How CPA Firms View a Gap in Your Resume - October 31, 2014
- Work in a CPA Firm Tax Department? Plan for Change. - October 20, 2014
- Accounting LIONs - September 29, 2014