You might think it’s better for the customer to work through your lunch or take your lunch break once all the dust is settled. The dust never settles. At most, you could maybe delay your lunch by five or ten minutes. Anything more than that will probably negatively impact you more than it will positively help out even the most desperate customer. So set a schedule and let everyone know.
I had one gig where I was the only person of my department in the building.
While rough, it also helped build my resolve. If you can’t quickly check in with someone for something simple, you either have to double check if yourself or have confidence that you did it well enough to figure it out yourself. I’d send out a question and might later get a response, once the problem’s solved, as my double check.
I’d often juggle a few things at once. I’m good at judging priorities now in part because when you have a few people asking for your help, you figure out really quick what mistakes not to repeat, if you can spend five minutes here to get this person back online, or if you can politely ask another person to defer. They’ll typically hang out. That’s all good. Shows your work ethic, don’t let it bother you.
That all leads into breaks and lunches, because everyone’s gotta have them throughout the day, unless you sign a waiver with your company, and especially when you’re buried under so much work, you’ll be tempted to spend some extra time or work through your lunch – essentially, not billing for the extra time you spent working – to be the “good employee.”
Don’t do that.
The only people that don’t respect your breaks don’t respect you in the first place. You’re not going to be any better of an employee, and any decent manager will realize the legal ramifications of your actions (you may consent to not billing accurately now, but there may come a time…) and tell you to cut it out.
I had a bit of a lunch support system, where I’d check in with my remote team for scheduling, to make sure we all took our breaks at around the same time every day. I’d let relevant staff on-site know when I was taking lunches, in case Anyone Important needed immediate support. We weren’t dealing with life-or-death situations. People just pretend that their work is like that. Even the highest ups can schedule or adapt, as long as you’re polite and follow-up.
I’ll never forget this interaction. I was talking with the remote guys about schedules. The one that’d been in the field longer said to the rookie, “you don’t get a lunch until Anthony’s taken his.” That was our way of covering for each other.
“What can I take off your plate so you can go to lunch?”
“Taken lunch yet?”
Five minutes later.
“You should break for lunch.”
“I’ll take this one. Go to lunch!”