Five Things You Should NOT Feel Guilty About at Work

Sometimes the simplest things at work get the most flack.  Insert guilty face now.

Like closing your door.  A sign of being closed off, or impersonal.  I mean, how can you build community in the workplace when your door is closed all the time?  Who’s making you feel the guilt over that one?

Who’s telling you this stuff and making you feel guilty:

“Who takes a lunch break anymore?  Lunch is so five years ago.”

“And you don’t really need to eat right now, there are way too many deadlines and due dates ahead of you.”

“Just grab something at the vending machine and push on through til the evening.”

How many of you feel guilty at the office for trying to maintain a sense of alignment and sanity?

Enough already!  We are all entitled to some sanity in the office, so sometimes that means operating in a way that fuels our productivity more than our politeness.  These five things may cause you to shake your head in protest or call me crazy, but I think every now and then you have to do some of them – the others, you need to do every day!

You Should Not Feel Guilty for Closing Your Door

Now, I fully realize that open space is a cool and hip thing at some organizations – and many say that this type of work environment encourages cooperation, collaboration, and engagement. But for those of us who still have offices with doors, there are some damn good reasons why you should feel no guilt about closing that door. There are times when deadlines are looming and you really need to barrel through that report, project, or evaluation. Even a five minute distraction could be a setback. Or you may need to have a meeting with a staff member or employee that requires privacy or discretion. Finally, you could be watching a training webinar or be on a video call and honestly need some quiet around you so you can hear and participate.

And if you want to bring science into the mix, check out this article on Inc. that cited a study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology:

“Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”

Boo-yah!  Science, bitches!  Take that guilt trip on a vacation.

You Should Not Feel Guilty Taking a Lunch Break

If you’ve read ANYTHING that I’ve written over the past two years, then you already know that this is a big deal for me. Taking lunch is so important, and for so many reasons. First, it gives you a break and gets you away from you desk. Second, it provides an opportunity to reflect and reset your day if you must. Third, you need to eat, right? If you still have a twinge of guilt going on, then read my recent post on things you can do to make the lunch break more productive.  And then check out this article from Fast Company on 8 reasons you should go to lunch every day.

You Should Not Feel Guilty for Saying NO to a New Project or Committee

If the request to do this project or serve on this committee is something that you’ve been begging and praying for, then go for it. But if your plate is totally full and you don’t think you can take on one more thing, big or small, then you owe it to yourself and the person who is asking to say no. And there is definitely a way to say no. The reason can’t be “I don’t have time” or “I’m not interested.” Those are both negative answers that are indicative of a bad attitude. Try these instead:
A. I’m very focused on the blah blah blah project right now and I want to do my best work
B. I’m almost finished with my work on blah blah blah committee and I think my attention should stay there for blah blah blah reason.
(you fill in the blank for the blah blah blah part)

Explain to the person asking that your priorities are elsewhere.  But do so in a way that focuses on positive work and care for the project.  And no one will think you are a slacker or a poor team player.

Don’t be a “Yes Man.”

This 2017 article from the New York Times sums it up perfectly for me:

“We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way,” said Dara Blaine, a career counselor and coach in Los Angeles.

“It’s when people learn to say no that I’ve really seen their careers take off,” she said.

To combat the problem, it helps to understand your own long-term goals first. This way, you can say yes to opportunities that most reflect your values. Second, try to build free time in your schedule so there’s room for new, interesting opportunities you might otherwise overlook.”

For more reasons on how you can say “no” gracefully, check out this article on Nu School.

You Should Not Feel Guilty for Leaving on Time

You have designated work hours. They might be 7-4, 8-5, 9-5, 10-6, whatever. I’m quite sure that the work hours appear in your job description or on the signage/information about your company our department. If you are a manager or non-exempt employee, then you may work beyond your work day from time to time. But you also have the clearance to come in late the next day or leave early. Usually. If you don’t have this freedom, then check out my post on how to talk to your supervisor. Taking the last half hour of your work day to organize your desk and get ready for tomorrow shows your dedication to the office. And unless you are.a fireman, policeman, or doctor, I’m pretty sure that no one will die if you leave at 5pm and come back at 8:30am with one project unfinished.

An article by Charley Mendoza discusses the importance of a start of day and end of day routine.  I LOVE THIS, mostly because I love things that are in lists.

Check this out – here’s what the end of day routine could look like:

End of Day Routine

Think of this as a wind-down routine that signals to yourself and your co-workers that you’re about to leave work in a few minutes.

Save all the documents you’ve been working on and close all the tabs on your browser.

Review the tasks you completed and take note of pending items that need to be included in tomorrow’s agenda.

Review what went well and what went wrong.  Consider what could be done to avoid the same problem in the future.

Do you have one task that you’ve been avoiding for a few days? Break it down into manageable chunks.

Optional: create an easy win task for tomorrow.

Turn off your computer and tidy up your desk.

This article from Entrepreneur cites great reasons why leaving on time every day is important to your productivity.

You Should Not Feel Guilty for Waiting Until After Lunch to Open Your Email

Frankly, this is a time management hack for which  I have a personal preference.  I am a morning person and I like to knock out the big projects when I feel the most productive. I know that opening my email first thing will just snowball into a cavernous mess of read, respond, delete (or, in my case, read….and read….and read…this is an area of improvement for me). If you are more productive after lunch, then maybe you wait until 11am to read your email and then go to lunch. Still, the notion of opening your email first thing indicates that other people’s issues become your priorities instead of your projects being your priority. If someone needs to reach you that badly, they will call or they will come find you.  This article from Sid Savara’s blog cites even more reasons why email-check-first-thing is a bad idea.
You CAN feel guilty about eating the last brownie, or not doing the dishes…but do not feel guilty about any of this.  Seriously.

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