can I do my own thing during business trip evenings, knitting on work breaks, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Can I do my own thing in the evenings on a business trip with colleagues?

In a few weeks, I will be taking a business trip with my manager and a senior employee. This is my first office job so I’m completely unfamiliar with business trip etiquette. This will also be the first time I meet any of my coworkers in person, as we all work remotely.

Our company is the teapot supplier to many major resorts. Consequently, business trips often take us to big vacation spots, and this upcoming destination is home to a prominent bar scene. I was a pretty serious bartender in my previous life, and I would very much like to visit at least one of the local staples.

I feel like this might not be a big deal, except that neither my manager nor my coworker drink (for religious reasons). I would feel very weird inviting them to come along, but I would feel rude telling them my plans without extending an invitation. And just to be clear, I’m not trying to get trashed or do any serious partying; I see it as a rare opportunity to enjoy a fancy cocktail or two from some industry-famous bartenders. I feel that I shouldn’t need “permission” for how I spend my evenings off the clock, but I also feel it would be incredibly careless – and show an alarming lack of judgement – to go off by myself in an unfamiliar city without even telling them.

Are there any guidelines/expectations for how to spend leisure time on business trips that might inform my actions? As the newest and least experienced employee, should I defer to my coworkers even if we don’t share the same values outside the office?

It’s totally normal to go off by yourself in an unfamiliar city without telling the people you’re on a business trip with! It’s not careless and it doesn’t show poor judgment. People do that all the time, and it’s not a weird thing.

It’s possible that you’ll be invited to all eat dinner together on the first night, and possibly on subsequent nights, but it’s very normal for people to do their own thing after that — whether it’s reading in their room or going out somewhere to explore the town. And actually, if it’s a multi-night trip, in many cases you can duck out of dinner too if you want to — it’s pretty normal in that context for people to say “I’m exhausted so I’m just going to head back to my room” or even “I want to walk around the city” or “I’m meeting a friend who lives here” or so forth.

Because you all work remotely, I would have dinner with them at least the first night if that’s a thing that’s happening — and generally be attuned to cues about whether there’s business-ish stuff happening in the evenings that they’re assuming you’ll be there for — but once the work stuff is over (and that includes work social stuff), you can go explore on your own after that.

You are not expected to invite your colleagues to whatever you do in your off hours on the trip; you can if you want to, but you definitely don’t have to. You get to have time to yourself on business trips (or at least, most people do). Go enjoy a fancy cocktail.

2. Knitting during breaks

I have a question that tangents this one about knitting during meetings and the optics of doing it during the workday.

I’m a (junior) consultant working at a government client. I’m working with both consultants from other companies and with employees of the client. We’re very busy at the moment but I am supposed to get breaks (including an hour for lunch). I like to knit, and do it during my commute. I really want to knit a little during my breaks, especially when we’re so busy because I’d really love a few minutes to wind down and change gears during the day.

I don’t dare to, though, because I feel it might give off the wrong vibe, like I’m slacking off during the workday. Am I right to worry about the optics? Or would it be okay to take a few minutes of my breaks to do something that would be really helpful for me?

Updated after seeing this was causing confusion in the comments: I’m going to separate this answer by lunch breaks and other breaks. For lunch breaks, I definitely wouldn’t do it at your desk, even if you’re on a lunch break, since people who walk by won’t know you’re on a break. If there’s somewhere else you can go to eat lunch, like a break room or a kitchen, it’s probably okay to do it there. But even so, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask a coworker who you respect (someone at least slightly more senior) if they think it’ll come across strangely. In theory, there’s no reason that it should, but in reality offices have their own culture and it’s smart to investigate if this would be weird in yours. (Plus, as a visiting consultant you can sometimes be held to different standards.)

But other, shorter breaks? I wouldn’t. With consulting in particular, where you’re expected to be polished and productive, it’s going to look bad. People seeing you knitting when they assume you should be working is going to look like you’re slacking off in a major way (and that you don’t care who sees it). I get that logically this makes no sense — after all, why is it worse than spending a few minutes in the kitchen with a cup of coffee? — but it’s going to land differently with people than the coffee would.

Particularly in exempt jobs, a lot of people don’t take formal breaks like that. It’s of course common to take informal breaks to check your personal email, chat with someone, etc., but the idea of a formal break where you could do something like knit or read a book is not a common thing in many exempt jobs … so for many jobs and many offices, it would read as culturally out of touch and a work ethic thing. I’m not saying it should, just that it will.

3. Can I ask an employer to expedite their hiring process because of my housing situation?

I currently live in California (the Bay area) and was told recently that I have to move out of my rental unit in 60 days. Meanwhile, I applied for a job in Illinois (so would relocate) the day before that notification. If that job does not come through, I would stay in the Bay area, where the rental market is very competitive and places difficult to find. I had phone interviews for the Illinois position on Monday, a little over a week after applying (employee referrals likely helped getting those set up). The next day, I received an email from the hiring manager (in reply to my “thank you for the interview” email) indicating that they found me to be a very good candidate for the position and that he would ask the HR representative to set up on-site interviews if I was amenable. I replied that day saying that I certainly was amenable and look forward to the opportunity.

At this point, I have ~six weeks to be out of my home. Would it be appropriate to email the HR rep who set up the phone interviews to ask if she would be setting up the on-site interviews, explain my housing issue to her, and say that any information on when the interviews may occur and any help in expediting the hiring process would be much appreciated?

No, don’t do that. It’s likely to make them really uncomfortable, because you’ll sound like you’re depending way too much on the chances of getting a job that you’ve only had a phone screen for at this point. It’s also way too early to ask them to expedite their hiring process since they barely know you at this point. But what you can do is to say something like, “My lease is about to be up, and so I’m the process of finding new housing. I expect to need to sign a lease by (timeframe), but I’m very interested in the position with you in Illinois. Are you able to give me a sense of what your hiring timeline looks like?”

But regardless of the answer, the best thing you can do here is to proceed however you would if you knew you weren’t getting this job, because even if they tell you that they’re going to move quickly, all sorts of things could happen — the position could get put on hold, they could hire someone else, the hiring manager could get sick and be out for weeks, they could offer you the job at an unacceptably low salary, or tons of other things. So you can get a bit more info (and drop that mention about your timeline constraints as you ask for it), but do not slow down or halt your housing search on their account.

4. No one at my office liked or commented on a popular LinkedIn post I made

I would appreciate your read on this. I recently received over 1,000 views on a LinkedIn post I made. Yet no one at the company I work at has given any feedback. No post comments, likes, etc. My company employs less than 100 people and I’m connected with many of them on LinkedIn and can see the post has been viewed by some. People outside of my company have offered likes and comments. This experience is making me question if I’m a valued and respected employee.

I think you are reading way too much into whether someone likes or comments on a post! Lots of people don’t use LinkedIn that way. They might read a posted article here and there, especially if they know the author, but don’t engage at the level you’re talking about.

If you felt like a valued and respected employee before this, you are probably a valued and respected employee. Don’t let a LinkedIn post be a big deal.

5. How do I tell this dude not to take personal calls in our company’s space?

We are a small company of about 10 people, and we share office space with a larger company of nearly 100 people. We share a break room (which is basically just an open hallway) and stay out of each other’s hair for the most part. My company has a copy room and a conference room set aside specifically for us. The other company has about six conference rooms, numerous offices, and their own central copy area, as well as a small break room with a couch and foosball table (with a door that closes).

For some odd reason, one of the employees at the other company insists on using our copy room to make phone calls. It’s an open space without a door, down a hall, but it’s only a few steps from the foosball room and several other conference rooms that are frequently open, not to mention the wide open back hallway. Our copy area is small—put three people in and it’s crowded—and so it’s super awkward to go over to pick something off the printer and have to ask this guy to move out of the way as he’s rambling on this call (which happens about twice a week and he’s back there for about 20 minutes).

Now, his taking personal calls on company time is none of my business, but the fact that he uses our space to do it when he has ample options that belong to the place where he actually works? Bothers me. What can I do, short of asking the other company’s human resources people to send out a passive aggressive email reminding people to stay out of our very limited space, especially when he has 3/4ths of the floor to wander in? I’m definitely making a mountain out of a molehill, but I kind of want to guard what little space my company has!

This doesn’t need to be a big deal — just ask him not to take calls in there. It’s perfectly reasonable since that’s your company’s space, not his. (I’m thinking I should rent myself out to deliver mildly awkward messages like this since clearly there is a huge market for it.)

Just say this to him: “Would you mind not taking calls in here, since this it’s a small area and it’s reserved for Teapots Inc.? Thanks!” That’s probably all you’ll need to do, but if he keeps hanging out in there after that, talk to whoever manages the other company’s space and ask them to keep him out of there. (Do not do the thing you mentioned about asking them to send out an email — it’s up to them how they handle it, and hopefully they’ll just talk to the guy directly if they can figure out from your description who it is.)

{ 356 comments… read them below }

  1. Deathstar*

    #4 Please don’t take it personally: I literally look at my LinkedIn every 2-3 months, so if any of your colleagues were like me, that would explain why they haven’t responded!

    1. MK*

      And even if the co-workers not liking the post was deliberate, it may simply mean they don’t agree with the views expressed in the article, it’s not necessarily a comment on the OP as an employee in general.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—I’m on LinkedIn but don’t really engage with it (I’m bad at responding to messages, I don’t like posts, etc.). I’m pretty bad about liking things on Facebook, too, to be honest. My laziness is definitely not a reflection on the “worthiness” of someone’s popular post. I just don’t allocate a lot of time or brain cells to social media, and my decision has nothing to do with my feelings toward my social media “connections.”

      There is part of me that worries, OP#4, that you’re putting part of your self-worth in something you can’t control—others’ interaction with your posts. I suspect that if people respect and value you as an employee, they will not form those opinions based on the popularity of your posts, nor will they express their respect for you via “likes.” You might feel better about how you’re perceived if you reorient where you look for professional validation/affirmation.

      1. Lance*

        Agreed; the fact that you’re checking the views, of all things, to see if any of your coworkers are amongst that number points to me that maybe you should take a small step back, and consider what you made the post for in the first place. Because, I’m betting, it wasn’t just for validation like you seem to be hoping for from them.

        1. ThatGirl*

          To be fair, LinkedIn notifies you of who viewed and liked your posts so the OP may not have been doing a lot of research.

        2. Specialk9*

          Exactly. One of the traps of social media is the conclusion that ‘likes’ are being liked, and that a lack of external validation means one isn’t worthy or appreciated or liked. I think many (most?) of us find that line of thinking to be hard to resist, but it is false. Don’t let clicks mean so much – they content, not character.

      2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t read too much into it. Most people I know (myself included) use LinkedIn as a tool to keep in touch with former colleagues and clients. It’s also great for people in positions like sales, etc. or when you’re looking for a job. But I don’t know many people who engage much there. One personal friend recently mentioned on other social media that she checks her LinkedIn every few months and many others said they do the same.

        One thing I found annoying at a previous job was that some people saw LinkedIn as the be-all-end-all. I agree that it can be beneficial, but it there’s a time and place for it – it’s not everything.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      This. I skim LinkedIn every couple of months, and seldom if ever read articles there. I’ve never liked or commented on anything on LinkedIn. I don’t always like and/or comment on posts on other platforms, either, even if I read them. It has nothing to do with value or respect, and isn’t a reflection of that.

      Also note that it goes the other way, as well. Just because I like or comment on a post of yours doesn’t mean I do value or respect you.

    4. nacho*

      Co-worker just sent me a linked-in invite in my office email. I politely deleted it and pretended like I never saw it.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        To be fair to your coworker, LinkedIn is pretty sneaky about constantly trying to get access to your contacts so they can spam them on your (their) “behalf.” It might have been an accident.

        1. the gold digger*

          LinkedIn kept inviting me to connect with my husband’s mother.

          No thanks.

          (They must have gone into my email to get ideas, which ticks me off to no end, especially as I have been unable to figure out how to disable that permission in LinkedIn. Oh! And by the way, LinkedIn, I cannot connect with people who are dead!)

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            I got a very creepy notice to “Congratulate Rex Sr. on his 10th work anniversary at Teapots consulting!”

            Um, that’s my dad. And he’s been dead for seven years. It was sad and jarring. I didn’t realize his account was still active. (Though they were good about taking it down once I notified them)

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, they do a really creepy thing of basically spoofing the name that shows up in the “From” field so it looks like the email is actually coming from a person rather than LinkedIn.

    5. Daria Grace*

      I’m the same and on the very rare occasions I do log in I have a specific purpose rather than scrolling random newsfeed content

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I find the news feed annoying. If I am on linked in I am either slogging through the stack of connection requests to filer out the people I have actually worked with or updating my profile. I don’t see the point of the news feed.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Same here. I go on every few months, often to slog through and accept/decline requests. At that point, I might scroll past the newsfeed very very briefly. Might.

        I also basically delete their emails almost immediately when they come in, so if there is some kind of notification that someone posted something, I’m probably not seeing it.

        1. Specialk9*

          I find the newsfeed useful to filter out people in real life for lack of professional wisdom. People post the darndest things on LinkedIn sometimes, and make the most glaringly work-inappropriate comments! But hey, thanks for the heads up on both your terrible views and inability to follow professional norms!

    6. Lora*

      I am old and don’t use any social media other than LinkedIn at the moment, and there is a tremendous divide on this point between me and friends/colleagues who use Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and all that. (I know, even my elderly mother is on Facebook.) So OP4, you sound a bit like my friends who are on allllll the social media: who liked what, who replied to a post they did, was it snarky, was it annoying, was it religious, was it funny, and this is a very central part of their lives. It seems to be a significant part of where they derive their sense of accomplishment and obviously it’s helped them feel socially connected when they are too busy with daily living to sit down with friends or go out for events in real life.

      But for lots of the rest of humanity (I promise, I’m far from the only Luddite with a stalker ex), we just don’t enjoy social media and don’t use it like that. When my mother waves her tablet at me and yells, “come look at what your cousin just posted!” after I scroll through about ten pages of advertising, pictures of people’s lunch, religious stuff, ill-informed politics, I find that my cousin posted a picture of herself while driving. Not only did I really have less than zero interest in the first ten pages, I was already aware that Tara could drive a car and she’s been doing so for 15 years. “Isn’t that a good picture of Tara? Her boyfriend took it.” Uh…ok.

      I don’t know, I just really don’t get anything out of it the way other people do. If I want to be social, I text someone asking do they want to go get a drink or a coffee, or I go out to a dance party, or I have people over for supper or poker night or whatever.

      My friends who spend a lot of time on social media always seem really stressed out about it, and get wound up about it, and I can kinda see how when you see everything your friends post (as opposed to only what they choose to show at work/hobby club/parent teacher conferences), you realize that they may have thought differently than you realized or there’s sides of their personality you had no idea existed. So there’s this implied internal life of the mind that you become concerned about, which otherwise you’d have remained blissfully ignorant of. I tend to think it’s better to stay ignorant on that point – there’s just too much that I really don’t want to know about people in order for me to keep being not disappointed in them, if I have to work with them daily.

      1. Fleah*

        Lora, this seems unnnecessarily preachy and overly negative about social media. So you’re a late adopter – bully for you. I’m not it requires a treatise about why it’s so great.

        OP4, there are plenty of people who don’t really care about or engage with LinkedIn but are on it because they “should” be – I’m one of those. Like Alison said, this isn’t really a big deal.

        Also congratulations on the post! That’s awesome to get so many views.

        1. Lora*

          Well, that’s exactly what I mean – LOTS of people either don’t use social media much or use it very differently, but there’s a group of folks who are VERY invested in it, and read stuff into non-responses that literally are not there. Who just aren’t invested in it and don’t think about it or invest in it emotionally. It doesn’t make sense for OP to imagine that her colleagues don’t like her or are snubbing her, simply because they haven’t responded. As Alison said, they probably haven’t checked on LinkedIn in ages – I know folks who still have their LinkedIn profiles listing them as employed at companies that were bought out nearly 10 years ago. Or they don’t care. I know I rarely read the actual feeds, just message back and forth with colleagues occasionally.

          Like I said, it’s a great mystery to me. I mean, I understand being mad because Someone Is Wrong On The Internet, but bringing that into work is a bad idea.

          1. nonegiven*

            I go on Facebook once a week or so. Otherwise it’s only showing me mostly the same posts I saw the day before that I didn’t care about the first time. I’m guessing if I don’t go to each friend’s personal page, I’m missing 90% or more of what they post because of the way Facebook orders my feed. If they especially want me to see it, it would need to be posted to my page or I’d need to be tagged in it.

            1. Specialk9*

              That’s weird. If I scroll awhile and then refresh, I see lots of new content. If I only check daily I’d see very different things! And I’m not a prolific Facebook-er. I wonder if something is funny in your settings?

      2. GG Two shoes*

        I get what you are saying. I was very concerned with social media for a while. I was an early-ish adopter of Facebook (2006, when it was only available to college students like me) so it was hard to even remember a time when Facebook wasn’t influential for me. After the election, I unfollowed everyone except my 5 closest friends and my husband. All media pages were gone too. Now I’m still on there a bunch, but I use it only for chat and to find out about events. And Tasty videos. So many Tasty videos.

        What I’m saying is, you can be on social media and use it the way YOU want to. You are in control of how to consume it. Just remember that maybe others like it as a tool to connect and don’t judge them for it.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          For me, if I find I’m getting neurotic about likes / shares (one post had 28 and one only had 23, what did I do wrong??) that is the sign that I need to unplug and step way back. It’s not bringing me joy at that point, it’s just tweaking my anxiety. OP may want to consider if this resonates with them.

      3. Just employed here*

        Hah, I’m young-ish and used to use Facebook every day. Now I feel just like you: I don’t need to know this much about all these people. If other people really using social media, good for them — I just don’t.

      4. Kate 2*

        I love this! This is really how I feel. And I agree with you about the “life of the mind” bit. I have seen even really nice, upstanding people I have known for decades go a little crazy on Facebook and say kind of rude things they wouldn’t say in person.

        Also, the way most people seem to use it is to keep in touch with people they don’t really like, or acquaintances they can’t be bothered to make an effort with like they would with friends.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        I find Facebook incredibly useful for helping me feel connected to friends and family on the other side of the country. If your friends and family are nearby, or you’re not close to them, that’s fine, but I like knowing that my cousin in Ohio ran a marathon, or seeing pictures of my friend in Missouri’s new baby. It allows me to feel like I’m a part of their lives, and to feel slightly less alone, without having to travel to visit them or wait for letters in the post.

        LinkedIn, I do not use the same way. The coworkers I am friends with, I keep up with in other ways. I connect with coworkers or colleagues, and I actually did get my most recent job when an old boss messaged me through LinkedIn to ask if I was interested in something new. But I don’t visit it regularly like I do Facebook.

    7. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP4, don’t treat LinkedIn that way you do other social media. Most people treat it as a business tool, the same way that they treat email, memos, etc. Think of it this way: when most people receive a group email, they only respond if there is a business need. Same with LinkedIn. They see a post, they may even read it, but unless they need to respond or have a good personal reason to do so (e.g., you are announcing your promotion), they neither take action nor feel a social convention to do so.

      If you want reactions to a post, put in on Facebook. The social conventions are very different there.

      1. aebhel*

        Yep. I’m pretty active on some forms of social media, but LinkedIn is not one of them. I definitely don’t socialize on there; I don’t know that I’ve ever read an article or a post. 95% of the reason I have it is to keep in touch with business contacts.

    8. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Even if I’m on LinkedIn, I’m not looking at what anyone has posted. I’m dealing with whatever made it email me, then doing something else. LinkedIn is not “normal” social media to me, it’s a tool for work related stuff, and I don’t think I’m alone in handling it very differently than I would other social media sites.

    9. JD*

      I will never understand why people’s self worth is now so often wrapped up in “likes”. I am fairly young and still don’t get this obsession with social media. Side note, I hate Linkedin and the expectation that one must use it. I find it a huge invasion of my privacy but that is a whole other issue.

      1. Susanne*

        In my professional world, LinkedIn is simply an online Rolodex – a way that you can keep your contacts. I too rarely check it and have no interest in congratulating people on their 5th anniversary with Teapots Inc. I know coworkers and friends have posted on there but I feel under no obligation to read/comment/like their posts. You’re overthinking LinkedIn.

        1. JD*

          I don’t see how I am overthinking it. I just don’t like it. Don’t use it. I have a barely profile for searchability reasons.

          I am NOT over thinking people’s obsession with having people “like” them on social media. It is a fact and teenagers are massively invested in strangers liking things they post.

          1. Genevieve*

            You seem massively invested in strangers being invested in strangers liking things that they post.

  2. Al Lo*

    #1 – I know the whole “sharing hotel rooms on business trips” is a hotly debated topic around here (I work for a non-profit, so while I have seniority to get my own room if we’re an odd number, it’s pretty much expected that we share rooms unless we’ve paid for an upgrade), and I don’t want to start the debate again, but I will add one little thing to Alison’s advice. If you are sharing a room and will be out later than bedtime, just let your roommate know. Whether that’s so that they don’t get freaked out because they hear the door after they’ve gone to bed or because they’re not sure whether they should leave a light on for you, or for whatever other reason, it just seems like common courtesy to me.

    I neglected to do that once on a trip (and for various reasons, my roommate was texting the wrong number to reach me), and I felt bad when I realized that my roommate had been wondering.

    If you have your own room, obviously, the above doesn’t apply!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Huh? Al Lo advised the LW on how this might go if they’re sharing a room. What comment did you read?

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think Al Lo is responding to OP’s comment that “it would be incredibly careless – and show an alarming lack of judgement – to go off by myself in an unfamiliar city without even telling them.”

      I think it’s fair to note that Alison is right that you don’t need to tell anyone about your plans or invite them to join you. But in the limited circumstance in which you share a room with someone, you might want to notify your roommate as a courtesy. That advice sounds responsive to OP’s question.

      1. Al Lo*

        Yup, basically that. Regardless of whether or not it’s safe or what it says about judgement, it’s also just a courtesy when you’re sharing a space with a person.

    3. finderskeepers*

      It is truly unfortunate that sharing of hotel rooms on business trips is still a matter of debate

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think it is much of one! There are some industries where it’s considered normal (some nonprofits, academia). Outside of those industries, it’s not normal and people are pretty solidly agreed it’s ridiculous.

        1. AKchic*

          Even retail (sales) folk who get sent elsewhere for training end up bunking together. I always pity the poor sod who ends up sharing a room with my husband. The man is gassier than a fuel station on a busy interstate. He can make paint peel. There’s not enough Beano in the world. Not enough Febreeze to mask that stench.

        2. Bleeborp*

          Unfortunately my husband’s company (a successful business that requires quite a bit of travel) has not received the memo that it’s not normal because he regularly has to share a room!

    4. Beatrice*

      Also be mindful of your co-travelers if you happen to be using shared rental cars, and you plan to take the rental car to make your personal stops. It’s normally okay to take off for an evening, but it’s not always *as* okay to take off for the evening with a vehicle that is shared between multiple people, leaving the others with no way to get out of the hotel for the evening. Consider taking an Uber or a taxi for your personal stuff and leaving them the car. If that’s not an option, at least make sure everyone has dinner covered and doesn’t need to run any errands, before you head off. If you take the car, also remember that you’re probably the person who will have the keys in the morning, then, and make sure your morning logistics still work out, in that case.

      1. Artemesia*

        If the plan is to go drink, definitely take a cab. I can also see joining the colleagues for dinner and then head back to the room and then out for a bar and cocktail before turning in.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I’d say that if you’re sharing a room you should plan on being back in the shared room by a reasonable “bedtime.” (10:00?) It’s not cool to disrupt someone’s sleep.

      1. Bleeborp*

        I’d say it’s just more effective to ask your roommate what they’d prefer- no reason to rush back by 10 if it makes no difference to them because they could like to stay up late or be a really hard sleeper who wouldn’t care when you come back.

  3. Sparkly Librarian*

    I also feel it would be incredibly careless – and show an alarming lack of judgement – to go off by myself in an unfamiliar city without even telling them.

    OP1, you aren’t beholden to your colleagues and don’t need to notify them of your social plans just because you’re colocated during a business trip. However, what I think I’m reading in your comment is a concern about safety while traveling alone, and I don’t think it’s entirely misplaced. Let someone know where you are going and when: text a friend or relative back home and check in with them later, or leave a short note in your hotel room. My dad’s always (yes, morbidly) referred to that as “letting him know where to start looking for the body”, and it could save valuable time in case anything does go amiss.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed! OP#1, it is so very normal to go do your own thing, and there’s no expectation or requirement that you invite others. I used to travel frequently with my boss and coworker, and aside from getting dinner together at least once during our trip, we routinely shared our plans or did our own thing without inviting each other. It wasn’t rude or off at all—it was more like asking someone about their weekend plans.

      In terms of the danger/carelessness of “going off alone” in a city, I think you’re the only one who can make that determination for yourself. I often travel and wander solo in cities and have not had any fears or concerns about disappearing (or failing to let someone at work know), but if that worries you, then I think it makes sense to check in with a personal friend or family member who will notice if you disappear off the face of the earth. I don’t think you should transfer the “keeping tabs” obligation to your boss/coworker.

      1. Artemesia*

        While I agree that your evenings are your own, given the remote working, I would be looking on this trip as a chance to build relationships with these people and be very attuned to their expectations to spend some time together.

        1. Artemesia*

          On the other hand, THEY may have local friends or want to do something and feel that they as senior need to look out for you, so don’t fall into one of those things where everyone is doing what they don’t want to do out of the false sense that everyone else wants to do that thing.

        2. Bookworm*

          Agreed. I think since it’s the first time they’re meeting, it makes sense to prioritize grabbing a bite with them if they’re amenable.

          That said, lots of places don’t do those dinners every night and they often wrap up early. If the trip is three days, there is likely time for OP to do both.

          1. Rainy, or has been, or will be*

            As I expect the bar life to be at its best quite later than religious people social life (I acknowledge the stereotype), there is likely time for OP to do both in one evening. As an experienced bartender, OP, you already now all about the tricks to business+party survival: drink plenty of water before sleep and at wake up to ward off the sunken eyes (and hangover), and plenty of coffee in the morning to at least appear awake (also cuts off the hangover for some of us).

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Serious question: Is it normal to get a hangover from “1 or 2 cocktails”?

              I drink maybe every other month, and when I drink I typically have a total of 3-4 shots over a couple of hours, and I’ve never had a hangover in my life. Am I just lucky or are you assuming OP will drink more heavily than stated/expected? (No judgement, I’m honestly just wondering.)

              1. Alienor*

                I’ve never had a hangover either. Even on the one occasion in college when I drank enough to throw up and pass out (never again!) I woke up a few hours later feeling fine. I think a lot depends on how a given individual’s body processes alcohol.

              2. Bookworm*

                I don’t know what’s “normal” or not, but I find that hangovers are very dependent on lots of different factors.

                Everything from weight, sex, tolerance, amount of food and sleep obtained, pace and amount of water consumed will affect whether someone gets a hangover. I know some people who regularly get hangovers from small amounts of drinking, and others who never get them.

                I rarely get hangovers, but do on occasion and they’re frustratingly uncorrelated with the amount I’ve had to drink.

              3. AcademiaNut*

                I find travel can throw off your normal balance. You’re extra tired, and jetlagged, and maybe a bit dehydrated after a long flight, and sleeping somewhere new, so what would normally be well within your limits can be a problem. Or if you order a new drink that’s stronger than you were expecting, so your two drinks are closer to six. (Watch out for Belgian beers and Imperial stouts….)

              4. Librarianne*

                I get hungover from two drinks. Sometimes from just one. I’m 36 and very petite, and two drinks will definitely be something I feel the next day, even if it’s just a bit of dry mouth and fuzzy-headedness.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            The first night, especially (Alison already hit this) be very attuned to “let’s go out to dinner and get to know each other” signals.

        3. Snowglobe*

          Agreed. I work on a remote team that travels together once or twice a year, and sharing meals together can be seen as pretty important for team bonding. We had a coworker who never ate meals with the rest of us (even lunch) and let’s just say that it became a ‘thing’.

        4. Lil Fidget*

          I actually agree with this. I think you probably need to plan on giving your coworkers the “right of first refusal” for evening socializing – especially if they are senior or have been there longer than you – and plan to get your cocktail either afterwards (work socializing is more likely to end early, by 8 or so) or on the last night after you’ve had ample socializing time. You can still get your cocktail and I agree you don’t need to invite them. Just because you haven’t actually met them there might be a weird extra dynamic of “this is our only time together in person this year.”

        5. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

          I get the whole “team building” thing, but when I’ve spent all day with colleagues, as much as I like them, I need a break from these people and time to unwind at the end of the day. And sometimes on business trips, you have to get work done at night that you weren’t able to do because of all-day meetings. After you’ve attended at least one group dinner, it should be okay to do your own thing at least one night. It should also be okay to do your own thing after dinner period. I’ve felt pressured to stay out late on business trips when I just wanted to relax in my room after dinner. In any case, I would just try and assess what the expectations are and follow accordingly.

      2. Specialk9*

        Exactly. Totally utterly normal to do your own thing at night, so long as you’ve put in some solid social face time with your fellow travelers. Everyone wants to unwind, and will find their preferred method.

    2. Emmie*

      It depends on the length of OPs trip. Getting away one late evening during a full week trip may be okay. I do not recommend planning on exploring when the trips are shorter like 2-3 days. In those cases, I recommend extending your trip to account for personal time.
      I am a remote employee and see colleagues on trips. Evenings are an extension of our daytime meetings, and often involve significant relationship building that’s important to remote workers and especially for some positions. I need to connect with clients and vendors too. This is absolutely a know your company thing. Since this is your first trip in the role, I’m not sure anyone would have the company knowledge to inform a judgment call yet. It’s possible that your upcoming trip could be like my two trips. They ended at 7 or 8 with several excuses to exercise or check emails. Good luck!

      1. Artemesia*

        This. First trip. Senior people to you. Remote work. All that says, be light on your feet and attuned to norms and make the job the focus. Only do the sidetrip if it is clear that it works in this context of a short trip. For longer trip, off you go one night.

        1. Emmie*

          I’d also keep my side trip to myself unless I invited coworkers. I never want it too appear like I’m at this great location for a vacation or break.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Even in this framework, I think OP could reasonably expect to duck out for their cocktail after 8, with the first wave of early “got to check email / whew I’m tired” folks. There may be second crew of “I haven’t been out without my kids in three years lets party” folks who stay up later drinking and talking – it might be worth it to try to stay up with them one night, for relationship building (YMMV – this is very specific-to-your-office-culture) but you don’t have to do it all three nights.

    3. ket*

      OP1, I’m also seeing a lot of “you don’t need to tell colleagues” in the comments, but you know your colleagues better than we do. Do they disapprove of drinking or do they just not drink? You could tell them you’re getting the cocktail and cover that concern if the second. And don’t discount inviting them entirely. While I was pregnant I still went to a bunch of cocktail bars and had great mocktails. Really good cocktail bars often have some delicious mocktails, since they’re thinking more about great drink flavors than getting trashed. Some colleagues who don’t drink would nevertheless be interested in getting a mocktail at a speakeasy or enjoying a virgin fruity drink at a rooftop lounge.

      1. OP1*

        LW here. This is actually something I’m trying to figure out still, and not just with drinking. We recently had a really cute video conference lunch, and it was nice to have that personal time with my coworkers. But then some topics come up, like dating for example, and I’m not sure how to handle it. I’m not one to be secretive (and really, their questions were so benign) but, having worked in bars and academia my whole life, I’ve never had to think twice about coming out. And suddenly I find myself thinking “Oh no, will this be weird for them??” I think I’m extra cautious because A LOT of people on the team are more religious/conservative than I’m used to. I know it’s not MY problem if they can’t handle that I’m gay, or that I like getting drinks, but I can’t help but feel…hesitation?

        1. ket*

          That’s tough, and I don’t know how to discreetly figure out where they stand. It’s easiest if you can see how they react to other people…. but you can’t necessarily just engineer such situations. Fingers crossed for you. Maybe the cocktail thing will be a way you can do a mild foray into something that probably would not hurt you at work — if they react negatively that’s a data point, even though being gay and drinking alcohol are entirely different sorts of things!

          1. OP1*

            Thanks! And yes, haha, very different things. I’m just kind of starting from scratch with my radar for what’s acceptable work behavior – going from clocking in at 6pm, being surrounded by people, in a pretty liberal-leaning area, having shift drinks… to a 9am start time, surrounded by my cat, with a much more family-friendly work vibe. Lots of adjustments!

            1. Specialk9*

              Gay marriage is a thing now, but being gay isn’t a protected class for employment at this time. You’re not safe (though arguably in the US one is never really has job security). I’d ask around to other LGB folks and ask about the norms.

              My gay co-workers have almost all kept their personal lives pretty discreet until I was solidly a friend instead of a co-worker. It made me both sad and mad on their behalf, but figured they knew best.

              As someone who knows and loves lots of religious conservatives, you are wise to be cautious. Conservative religious cultures are generally pretty hostile to homosexuality. I hope this changes over the next few decades, but right now I think your instinct to worry about your co-workers has validity. Of course they may be like me, deeply religious and a screaming liberal, or like my female gay pastor and rabbi friends. But I’d be cautious and let them reveal themselves before you reveal yourself.

              1. OP1*

                I appreciate your kind insight. Fortunately our work culture is very healthy and our value differences have not impacted working relationships, so far anyway. But yeah I think I’ll play it safe for now.

        2. oranges & lemons*

          Oh yeah, I know that feeling too, sadly. Logically I know it’s not my fault if someone is a bigot, but on some level I still don’t want to make them uncomfortable (and don’t want to field inappropriate questions or moral judgements either). I usually just keep quiet about dating until I have a better read on them, which is isn’t ideal, but I’m a bit of a coward.

          1. OP1*

            I don’t think you’re a coward! Or rather, I don’t think this makes you one. Honestly I didn’t realize how easy I’ve had it until this came up. I’m actually really fortunate that this is the first time I’ve felt so nervous sharing an aspect of my identity.

    4. OP1*

      You’re correct. Although I’m not personally distressed by the idea of myself (a woman in her 20s) going off alone, I know a lot of people…can be. Especially those with very maternal/paternal instincts. I’m mostly worried about how it will come across; I can handle any Forensic Files-inspired updates with my friends haha

  4. Mes*

    Knitting can be judged in a way that other break activities aren’t. It’s not fair because it’s more productive than fooling around on your phone or whatever. I would probably play it safe and bring a book or something.

    1. TL -*

      I don’t think I would judge someone harder for knitting at their desk than reading a book – Alison is right, that would come off weird – and I don’t think I would care much about what you did in the break room as long as it was workplace appropriate.

    2. Miso*

      I honestly don’t get this and I don’t get Allison’s answer on this either, especially the part “no one knows you’re on a break” – like what are you supposed to do on your break then? Look like you’re working? That’s not really a break then.
      And how is being on your phone or reading a book better then? I definitely would judge people if I thought they were reading a book while they should be working.
      I don’t get it.

      On the other hand, I’d be extremely annoyed by the noise of the knitting needles, so I wouldn’t do it anywhere where other people (who are working) can hear it anyway.

      1. Oryx*

        Yeah, I’m confused by this answer, too. I have a coworker who knits at her desk on her lunch breaks and nobody cares and it’s always very clear she’s on her lunch break at the time.

        1. OP2/LW2*

          Yeah, it’s the consultant thing that is the problem, I think. If I had been an employee of the federal agency I’m currently at, there wouldn’t have been a problem.
          I mean, *I* can sometimes wonder at the amount of tax money that pays for me to be there.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Part of it may be an hourly/non hourly divide? YMMV but in my office, salaried staff are never really expected to be “on break” (sitting at their desks but not working? Not responsive to phone or email? That is not A Thing here). If you really want to clear your head, in this office you step out for a walk / go get coffee / a smoke or whatever – you’re off site.

      2. Alton*

        I agree. It’s normal in my experience for people to take breaks at their desk, maybe with a note on the door that they’re on break until X time. If you work at a front desk or something, that’s trickier and in that case it’s usually easier to find a more out-of-the-way spot. But I assume that a lot of people spend at least some of their break at their desk. For example, my office doesn’t have a break room, so I almost always eat lunch at my desk, but it’s clear that I’m off the clock when I’m doing that. I do step away if possible when I want to read or something, but that’s just because the way my office is set up, it’s hard to completely avoid interruptions. And because I feel more rested if I get away from my desk for a bit.

        I would also think nothing of someone knitting on their break.

        1. schnauzerfan*

          In our organization, if you’re at your desk, you’re “at work” and you need to appear to be working. (We are a state agency, and members of our public can and do roam amongst the work stations.) If you want an uninterrupted break, you need to leave your desk… go to the break room, leave the building etc. Knitting, napping, reading, playing angrybirds, or whatever are fine in the break room.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            In this office it would be a little weird to see someone just hanging out in the kitchen (which has a few tables and chairs, so is our unofficial break room) killing time, TBH. People would definitely side-eye and think, “don’t you have enough work to do?” Weirdly it’s okay to go get a coffee, which is our version of needing to clear your head. I suppose it just *looks* more productive. I’m not saying it’s right for productivity – but that’s definitely our office culture.

      3. Dawn*

        A huge part of this is that the OP is a consultant- we’re held to a completely different standard than regular employees. It’d be a bit like if you hired a maid service to clean your house, and then come home to find them all sitting around your kitchen table knitting. Even if they said “we’re on a break” it’d still come across as odd (or at least it would to me).

        I also think that knitting is pretty far outside the norm of what most people do on their work breaks that it’d stick out, and not in a good way. Unfair? Sure, but that’s the optics in a professional situation, and when you’re a consultant the *perception* that you give while at a client site is extremely important.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Reading these comments I’ve never been happier that the whole librarians-and-knitting stereotype is often kind of true. To me knitting in the lunch room is so completely normal. Knitting at your desk would be odder, but mostly because most people don’t take breaks at their desk.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            It was one of my prouder moments at my old job that I managed to get two of the other employees into knitting, and we could all hang out in the kitchen at lunch and knit.

            1. Specialk9*

              As an aside, a friend introduced me to weaving I’m a rigid needle loom (I’m not clever or dexterous enough for knitting!). It’s amazing. The initial setup takes awhile (I’m new so still 2-3 hours, but experts take 30 min I think) and then the actual weaving just flies by. The visible evidence of your work is so satisfying! And the cloth is so supple and pretty.

      4. aebhel*

        That’s my feeling too; I can see how the noise might be annoying in close quarters, but if you’re required to look like you’re working while you’re on a break, then it’s not actually a break!

      5. Parenthetically*

        I don’t get it either! Just registering my opinion that I don’t think knitting looks unprofessional, I think it’s a perfectly fine way to occupy one’s break, and I would have zero objection to it in a meeting, conference, presentation, or anything else where attention but not note-taking were required.

        1. nonymous*

          I’ve seen it knitting in public happening at academic conferences! And first year in grad school there was someone who would work on socks during the few minutes while everyone shuffled in.

          1. Specialk9*

            See, I’d give serious aside eye to knitting in an office type workplace, but not at all in an academic conference.

          2. OxfordComma*

            I usually knit at conferences. I sit in the back. I find I retain the information being presented better if I’m knitting. And to all the naysayers I usually point out that nobody seems to have a problem with the people playing games on their phones.

      6. JD*

        Most people on a break won’t be sitting at their desks. They will go to the bathroom or get coffee or a snack. To sit at your desk knitting gives a bad impression because they have no idea you are on a break, just looks like you are sitting at your desk knitting. I would say a 15 knitting break in the break room would be fine.

      7. Specialk9*

        Alison is absolutely right in her answer, though. Everyone would know you as the knitting person “You know Jan Smith?” “Who?” “The one who knits” “Oh, them, yeah.” It’s just not wise to be so visibly Not Working. I would never do foosball or pool at work either, because while they want us to be cool-fun-like-a-tech-startup… They also lay people off all the time. Fair or not, knitting person and foosball person and reading novel person could easily go to the top of the list. But I’m cynical and paranoid.

        That said, talking about knitting is totally ok!

        1. SongBird*

          This is doubly amusing to me because 1) I’m happy to be known as The Knitter anywhere I work and 2) I’ve a good friend named Jan Smith who is also a knitter!

    3. Bertie*

      Yes, knitting can be judged in a way that other break activities aren’t. Those of us who do it are seen as productive and talented (especially when wrangling two-at-a-time magic loop fair isle sleeves worked from both ends of each yarn cake while confirming the status of the quarter-end report on the fly).

      For example, coworkers in my very corporate finance office light up when they see me knitting at my desk on break or lunch. C-suite execs who wouldn’t normally interact beyond socially required niceties in the elevator like to stop by and ask what I am making now or reminisce about how their grandmother used to knit hats for all the grandkids, VPs occasionally ask for help fixing a snagged sweater, and directors ask opinions about wool socks for their upcoming hiking trip.

      1. Yvette*

        I think the “no one knows you’re on a break” would apply to any activity that seems to be non-work related, such as reading, crossword puzzles, solitaire etc., not just knitting.

        As far as “For example, coworkers in my very corporate finance office light up when they see me knitting at my desk on break or lunch. C-suite execs who wouldn’t normally interact beyond socially required niceties in the elevator like to stop by and ask what I am making now or reminisce about how their grandmother used to knit hats for all the grandkids, VPs occasionally ask for help fixing a snagged sweater, and directors ask opinions about wool socks for their upcoming hiking trip.” I think that is exactly what Alison means by “knitting can be judged in a way that other break activities aren’t.” It gives off a definite “granny” vibe. Just as we are often admonished against being perceived as the “office mommy” I would not like to be perceived as the “office granny” either.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Bertie, I’ve been knitting for 15 years and it’s my favorite hobby, but… yes, it does come across granny-ish to many many people.

            1. Lehigh*

              I mean, it depends on the rest of your appearance (and vibe). My 6’4″ husband frequently crocheted in his downtime at a previous job. Pretty sure it didn’t make anyone consider him their work-grandma.

              To be fair, sexism was working on his side on that one.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                “To be fair, sexism was working on his side on that one.”

                The glass escalator is a real phenomenon. I worked with a bunch of early-20-something women who liked to knit and crochet: they were constantly asked if they were “making that for the grandkids” and other questions that were just jokes about how they were acting like old ladies. The dude who was part of the knitting crew never got any of that crap, usually just a double-take.

              2. Bea*

                Everyone is shocked and in awe that my dad crochets. He also watches Hallmark Channel and I’ve seen him cry at Good Will Hunting. So I’m just like “Yeah…”

                It’s still sexism and some are quietly judging his masculinity and probably question is sexuality too. So I wouldn’t be so quick to say it’s on his side.

              1. Red 5*

                Same here. While I’m happy to point out that knitting is a growing hobby across a wide swath of younger demographics, honestly in my heart I’m just already old and crotchety ; )

          2. Lil Fidget*

            I also think it’s like, look, if this is Your Thing you may well be willing to cash in some chits on this. Might it strike someone as somewhat unprofessional? Yes, but you LOVE KNITTING and don’t care. F*ck those people if they have a problem with it. More power to you, OP! You can make this calculation. I do it by not wearing makeup at all. I know there are some people who this might strike as off and might even hurt me in a few chances (that probably wouldn’t have worked out for me anyway if Appearing Highly Feminine was a key facet of the role). I make the calculation and decide it’s worth it to me.

            However, if you don’t really care about it and just idly wondering if a knitting consultant would be cool, most of us are coming down on the side of, meh, might not send the right signal, maybe don’t do it.

            1. Lehigh*

              I like your point about choosing the Thing(s) that will be other-than-usual at work but are worth it to you. I never really thought about it as cashing in your chits. Interesting point for balancing priorities.

            2. Yomi*

              I do this with nail art. Nobody has raised an eyebrow about it or made any comments besides compliments, but I know my nails don’t fit into the culture of conservative business dress that we have. I just figure if I can’t really dress how I want, and I can’t really dye my hair like I want, I’m going to get fun manicures.

              But it really is a calculation of what you can get away with that is important to your sense of being you.

            3. Hrovitnir*

              This is an excellent response (I say way belatedly). But absolutely – it’s a calculation to make, that’s going to vary by your specific work culture, and may or may not be worth it to you.

        1. aebhel*

          Right, but the problem with being the ‘office mom’ is that you’re taking on a caretaker role for your coworkers, which is both inappropriate in most circumstances and can become an expectation that undermines your actual role.

          I don’t see how knitting is the same thing; even if people perceive it as an odd or old-fashioned hobby, it’s not disrupting how you interact with your coworkers.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Unfortunately, for both Office Mom and Office Granny (and I’m not sure that everybody would think seeing someone knit would automatically make them Office Granny; it’s kind of hipster these days too) – because our society stinks, Mom/Grandma are not people who get that big stretch promotion. You want to be Office Superstar or Office ClientWhisperer – not The Motherly One Who Bakes Us Cookies. You *should* be able to be both, but … these other roles are kind of a distraction, IMO.

            1. Bertie*

              Yes, perhaps that is why I get kudos rather than side-eye for knitting at the office. I am frequently described as the Office Rockstar and have worked hard to earn my boundary-smashing promotions and raises in my very conservative and traditional industry.

              So even though I do bring in homemade pastries on occasion and know how to use the office sewing kit, those are seen by colleagues as bonus side features in addition to my professional capabilities. It is well known that I work at a very high level and often have a full schedule, so being seen with my knitting provides a neutral opening that makes me more approachable to others, which furthers my work connections rather than hinders them.

              1. Specialk9*

                Ahhhh interesting! That’s a fun permutation. So someone who’s kind of intimidating who has a visible hobby that gives people an entry point, conversationally. Cool!

        2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

          I knit at lunch in the break room all the time, and I don’t think anyone considers me a granny. Although, my abundant tattoos might have something to do with that.

          But to address the LW’s concern directly, I’ve worked in a variety of environments, from super laid back to extremely conservative, and in every office people knit in the break rooms at lunch and it was never an issue. I know a lot of knitters in other industries, and they also knit on breaks. I suppose there probably are places where it would be a problem, but I don’t think it’s the norm.

      2. Specialk9*

        I think a lot of people judge office knitters in far less positive ways, though of course there are sub cultures in which it flies. Personally, I might be happy to chat with someone about knitting, while at the same time the fact that they are knitting in an office would reduce my view of their professionalism.

    4. Admin of Sys*

      I think it feels odd because generally ‘crafts’ aren’t something you do on break. It’s not specific to knitting IMO. I’d feel a little bit odd sketching at work, too – or filling in a coloring book, or really any sort of similar arts and crafts. There’s no reason why it should be different than sudoku or reading a book (assuming it’s not messy or disruptive), but creative endeavors seem to be culturally ‘not something you do on break’.
      note: this may not be true in creative industries? But certainly in all the jobs I’ve worked at.

      1. Anna*

        I think the difference is that knitting is pretty easy to pick up and put away when you’re done. Sketching or coloring or whatever is a bit more involved.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        That’s an interesting thought, Admin of Sys – in creative industries is something like knitting or drawing or other artsy-craftsy hobbies during breaks regarded differently? Or is it less industry related and more individual office related?

        1. Alienor*

          I’ve worked in creative departments before, and generally people don’t do their outside creative hobbies at work there either, although it’s fine to, for example, let your colleagues know that you’re having an exhibit of your artwork next weekend, or show around photos of the custom cakes you decorate. I actually used to have a colleague who would draw during meetings–still paying attention and participating, just keeping their hands occupied–and they eventually got spoken to about it “looking bad.”

      3. Red 5*

        I think sketching would be no different from sudoku, at least based on the artists I’ve known. I think the difference for a lot of crafts though is just the amount of stuff it takes to work on them. Knitting is your working yarn and your needles, smaller projects can fit in a jacket pocket. I loom knit, so with my loom I can travel with, it’s just yarn, a loom, and a knit pick. It would all fit in my lunch bag. (My larger loom wouldn’t work for that, it’s 18″ across). Coloring books require a variety of colored pencils or markers, painting is just a no go, scrapbooking, etc.

        But sketching is just a pencil and a notebook, so I wouldn’t look twice at it.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Here’s why I think of knitting differently than looking at your phone etc.: It’s a project. You’re invested in it. You’re probably not doing it in 90-second increments. It signals that you’re off-duty entirely (which you are, during a break, so that’s fine).

      I’m not a knitter, so I may be wrong about this… but most people aren’t knitters, and you have to contend with our misunderstandings of your hobby.

      1. peachie*

        Do you think it’s a problem during breaks?

        I do see how it could appear like something that can’t just be picked up and put down; that’s a misunderstanding, but I can see how one would arrive at it.

      2. Red 5*

        It’s definitely true that this is the conception of knitting, but it isn’t the reality.

        Some projects are very much a thing you need to pay attention to. I did something recently that was this kind of complicated lace pattern where I was doing a different pattern of stitches for each row, and there were I think 16 different rows. I could only do that while watching movies I’d already seen or listening to music.

        But a scarf with a simple stockinette stitch? It really, honestly can occupy the same mental space as doodling or a fidget toy or even flipping your pin on your fingers. Your hands just know what to do, and you’re just doing the same things on repeat. I don’t know about 90 second increments, but five minutes? Definitely a thing.

        It’s all muscle memory, kind of like touch typing. I had a conversation with somebody this week while they were knitting and she maintained eye contact the entire time, and was completely engaged in what we were talking about.

        But, as you say, people who don’t knit don’t realize this. Which is unfortunate.

        1. Rana*

          Yup. I sometimes watch tv or read while knitting, because it’s good at occupying my hands but not my brain, unless it’s something really complicated.

        2. sb*

          And people who tried knitting a few times and were terrible at it and quit while they were still in the stage of concentrating furiously on it and still having it turn out like one of those photos of what happens when you give spiders caffeine and their webs go screwy — they’ll really think it takes all you have, because you’re GOOD at it.

      3. nonegiven*

        If your work is looking at screens a lot, 10 minutes of knitting is surely more of a break than looking at another little screen, checking Facebook or reading.

    6. Tuna*

      Maybe it depends on the business, or your work culture? I’ve been working in public libraries for many years and at every meeting, at every conference and at every library I’ve been to, there is always someone knitting or crocheting. One library even turned it into a program where once a week library users can knit with staff members.

    7. Annie*

      I think part of the distinction of knitting from other break activities is that there is a visible progress – you can see exactly how far they have progressed on their project (just a sleeve one week to a complete sweater the next) and the progress they are making on that project might be compared (in the eyes of some) to the progress they are making on their work projects. Compare that to other break activities where it’s harder to visualize the time they are taking (fiddling on the phone or outside smoking or flipping through a magazine in the breakroom).

    8. Jean Lamb*

      Where I worked, once a week the needlework people took over one of the conference rooms for lunch (including one guy). I wish I’d joined them, though I was often busy working on a novel at my desk (with the AT LUNCH sign posted so people wouldn’t interrupt me quite as much). Mmm…latch hook rugs…

  5. HA2*

    #3: fortunately around here, the housing market moves so fast, you can really wait until two weeks before your old lease is up to get a new one. Everybody wants “move in now”, not “move in in a month.” So you’ve got a good 40+ days to find out whether you got that job in Illinois. That’s likely a reasonable timeline, you’re not asking them to expedite anything most likely.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was thinking the same thing. When I lived in LA, the turnaround time for the leasing market was about 2 weeks. The Bay Area moves even faster, and I suspect a lot of landlords would be willing to sign a month-to-month lease—at least that was my experience (month-to-month leases usually offer less protection than an annual lease, but if you need the ability to break the lease before one year is up, then the lack of certainty might be a benefit).

      But definitely do not tell the Potential Employer’s HR person about your housing issues, OP#3. It’s going to sound like you’re putting all your eggs into a pretty speculative basket, and if it doesn’t work out (always a possibility), it’s likely to increase the amount of stress you feel around finding a new place in the Bay.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It risks coming across as eggs-in-this-amorphous-basket-you’re-holding or I-just-signed-a-new-one-year-lease-so-don’t-want-to-move. Or both at once.

    2. Mints*

      Yeah, I’m in the Bay Area and I think the average time from first visit to move-in has been about two weeks.
      If you go see a place like “I’m crashing on a couch and I’m willing to move tomorrow” that’s also not weird and landlords are happy to get you in early

    3. EMG*

      Thank you. The bigger issue is finding something affordable and hiring movers and so on, on short notice, around the holidays. It would be nice to have more time, but I know it will work out.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I’m on a Board of Directors where one of the directors engages in extremely focused embroidery during meetings. She’s very obviously not paying attention to the meeting itself, and it comes across badly and burns up a lot of good will (I think knitting would actually be less weird to this group because experienced knitters can often knit while remaining engaged/focused). I’ve noticed folks who are typically very pleasant immediately switch to an exasperated or frustrated tone when interacting with The Embroiderer.

    Which is all to say that although there is nothing inherently wrong with knitting, it can easily be misperceived. So I agree with Alison—don’t do it at your desk (where people may not realize you’re on break), and ask a more experienced colleague that you trust about the local culture. I’ve worked places where knitting during staff meetings was totally acceptable—although it was certainly in the minority.

    1. Jennifer*

      You could put up a sign saying “On break.” That used to be a thing in our office. Especially when certain people were gaming.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Is it going to be more disruptive than typing or mouse-clicking? I can understand it distracting in a meeting, but knitting is usually far *less* noisy than standard office computer work.

          1. CheeryO*

            I’m a knitter and don’t mind the noise in general, but I think it would be distracting at work because my brain is expecting less rhythmic noises in that environment. It’s not quite the same as bursts of typing or mouse clicking.

            1. Just employed here*

              Exactly, you *expect* to hear typing and mouse clicking noises in an office, not knitting, card shuffling, rope skipping, or whatever other noises people tend to do when they are not working.

          1. Red 5*

            I was just wondering if I was losing my hearing. None of my knitting friends clack when they knit, so I just assumed that was something that wasn’t really a thing anymore for one reason or another.

            I loom knit so it’s a different ball of yarn on that front. Depending on your pick and your loom, it makes different noises but usually it’s silent.

    2. LW2/OP2*

      Oh, I would never do it during meetings! (Though days like yesterday when I had a 13 hour meeting, I was sorely tempted!)

      I’ve been considering slipping into a meeting room for some time alone and away to knit but I worry it’ll seem antisocial.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just realized you’re talking about breaks other than lunch! If that’s the case, I definitely wouldn’t do it — seeing you randomly knitting during the workday when it’s obviously not lunch is going to look bad, unfortunately.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Even if you do it in the breakroom? I agree that knitting at one’s
          desk would look weird, but I can’t see why it could possibly be objectionable in the breakroom, since by virtue of being there, one is obviously on a break. I’ve always assumed that my break time is my time, to use as I please, as long as I’m not like, breaking any laws or something, lol. Why should anyone care if I knit (or crochet, etc.) In the breakroom, on my break, as pposed to reading a book, playing with my phone, or whatever? Your original reply indicated that this might be viewed unfavorably, and I’m at a loss to understand why.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s the optics of it. With consulting in particular, where you’re expected to be polished and productive, it’s going to look bad. People seeing you knitting when they assume you should be working is going to look like you’re slacking off in a major way (and that you don’t care who sees it). I get that logically this makes no sense — after all, why is it worse than spending a few minutes in the kitchen with a cup of coffee? — but it’s going to land differently with people than the coffee would.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There’s also the factor that a lot of people — particularly in exempt jobs — don’t take formal breaks like that. It’s of course common to take informal breaks to check your email, chat with someone, etc., but the idea of a formal break where you could do something like knit or read a book is not a common thing in many exempt jobs … so for many jobs and many offices, it would read as culturally out of touch and a work ethic thing. I’m not saying it should, just that it will.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                Yeah this to me is a service-industry thing, where you get regular “breaks” that you take in the break room. In an office situation I think it’s assumed that you’re supposed to be working all day. Can be an exception for lunch depending on office culture.

              2. Just Snarky Today*

                Yeah, I came from school environment that almost everyone was doing something else during meetings. Cutting name tags, marking math sheets, sorting supplies, and knitting. Fast forward to new academic environment. Read AAM. It seems that people surfing the web on their phones and doing email on their tablets during meetings is just fine but knitting is not. Not a hill I would die on.

              3. Ego Chamber*

                “for many jobs and many offices, it would read as culturally out of touch and a work ethic thing. I’m not saying it should, just that it will.”

                How should this be handled when you’re hourly, but the exempt employees don’t understand what hourly means? I’ve had many, many jobs the management would interrupt employees on their mandated (by company policy, and in my state) work breaks and ask them to do something, and the employee would cut their break short, but often not clock back in until the end of their scheduled break. Technically not an issue with paid breaks, but seems like it’s against the spirit of the law if not the letter.

                I suppose there are jobs where everyone is exempt, so this is fine, but in my experience that’s not most jobs, and I don’t know how to explain the difference in job expectations to managers who don’t seem to understand that I am being paid to work specific hours whereas exempt employees are being paid to complete specific tasks.

        2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          Yes, exactly! (though lunch is an issue as well – all my fellow consultants go out to lunch together which leaves me absolutely no time to myself… I’d love just five minutes to myself. But I fear that will seem disloyal…)

          1. KellyK*

            I don’t think going out for lunch with your fellow consultants every single day is necessary. You’re still getting lots of social time with them with three or four lunches a week.

        3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          My current solution is to escape into a phone booth/meeting room for 5-10 minutes just to change gears. Would that be ok, you think?

          1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            And I’m the OP, obviously. :)

            Forgot to change my nick on my work computer (and remembered to do it on my phone…)

          2. Lulubell*

            In my office, meeting spaces are at a premium – we don’t have enough to go around and they are often fully booked. We’re discouraged from using them for personal calls or anything but what they are intended for. So I’d make sure that’s not an issue in your office or you might call more attention to yourself than you would otherwise.

            1. OP2/LW2*

              That particular thing wouldn’t be a problem, neither at my “home” office nor at my current client. :)
              (I’ve often taken 10 minutes to meditate in the phone booths for example. You can’t see into them, so it’s impossible for anyone to tell what one is doing inside.)

      2. Zathras*

        This is a side point, but a *13 hour meeting* ? I’d have been tempted to stab people with knitting needles, never mind knit.

        1. OP2/LW2*

          Yeah… It’s been a very very long week.

          (We’re sending out a major document for political commission and it’s either send it to the right people on Monday or do it in six months – no other choices possible.)

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Though I can see why the people running the 13 hour meeting wouldn’t want anyone armed…

      3. Tish the tester*

        I wouldn’t knit during meetings or short breaks, but I have (and also crocheted, embroidered, sewed and fabric painted) during lunch breaks. My org actually encourages us to form lunch groups around various past times because they realized it brings people together across departments in a way that wasn’t happening in the course of doing normal business, and has actually improved productivity and “organizational stewardship”. A kind of informal, internal networking. I wish more places did something like it.

        1. Jubilance*

          Ditto! My company has various organizations, and I’m a co-lead for our crafting group. We have weekly crafting lunch sessions where you can bring your lunch and your project, and I love having time to work on my latest project. I could and have also knitted at my desk, normally it sparks questions.

        2. Alex the Alchemist*

          Yep! At the office I was interning at over the summer, I was able to bond with a lot of the other staff because we all brought our knitting to the lunchroom and worked on our projects together. It was really great!

        3. Agent Diane*

          Love that idea! I might try to start a #knithappens lunch social knitting circle at our building now!

          1. Red 5*

            I highly encourage you to do it, I love my lunchtime knitting group at work and it’s had benefits that extended into the work day beyond just being relaxing.

      4. Beancounter Eric*

        So what? If it helps keep you sane, grab a vacant meeting room and start knitting!!

        And 13 hours for a meeting….bloody hell!!

    3. Bookworm*

      I can certainly understand why that grates on people’s nerves.

      I’m not especially familiar with embroidery, but even when it comes to knitting if someone isn’t able to keep their head up, chime in and make eye contact, then they’re not experienced enough to get away with doing it at a meeting.

      1. Mary (in PA)*

        Embroidery (usually) requires more focus and concentration than knitting. I mean, there are easy kinds of embroidery and complex kinds of knitting, but in general, embroiderers tend to follow some kind of pattern while they’re working — plus they have accoutrements like thread, needles, and scissors. When I get together with my embroidery friends, we have plenty of brain-space for conversation, but sometimes, someone will be asked a question and just won’t be able to answer, because they’re counting threads, or they’re focusing, or they’re doing something that really needs their attention right at that moment. We all understand it, but it’s definitely not something you should be doing during a work meeting.

      2. peachie*

        I would never do it because of the optics, but I do wish this were allowed or ‘okay’ in longer meetings. I’m not a master crochet-er by any means, but I don’t spend any more time looking at it than I would looking at a notepad–in fact, I crocheted more than I ever have during a two month period when I went temporarily blind.

        Anecdotally, I’ve found if I have a project in my hands during a phone meeting where I’m not the leader or notetaker, I’m MUCH more engaged and talkative than I would be otherwise; there’s nothing to distract me.

        1. Bookworm*

          I think there’s actually research to support the idea that when people have something occupying their hands they’re more engaged. Students who doodled are apparently more engaged than those who were just told to focus (or something along those lines).

          My guess is that our muscle memory (which is what a lot of people call upon when they knit) just lives somewhere so different than our ‘listening’ brain, and the process of using both helps us reach that flow state. I realize this theory isn’t remotely scientific.

    4. Mary (in PA)*

      UGH. As an embroiderer myself, I wish I could do way more embroidery than I currently do – but I’m also on the executive board of our embroidery region, and though it would be 100% acceptable to do embroidery at those meetings, I would never do it there. Because my job in that embroidery-specific organization is to take minutes and record motions and votes, not to do embroidery. I can’t IMAGINE embroidering during a work meeting.

    5. aebhel*

      I mean, the problem here is doing it during meetings. Your shouldn’t be reading a book or playing on your phone during a meeting, either, but I doubt anyone would see a problem with doing either of those things on your lunch break.

  7. Naerose*

    #5: Do you think there’s a market for consultants doing awkward statements delivered tactfully? It’s like a HR version of a singing telegram (though that would also be fun to deliver some of these messages). I could totally do that!

    1. Artemesia*

      Well there is a whole industry for firing people; I had a particularly odious brother in law whose job it was to travel around Europe firing people at companies who didn’t want to deal with this unpleasantness.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh God, this reminds me of the niche industry of people who will break up with the person you’re dating for you.

      2. hbc*

        Eww. I don’t think that particular field would attract very nice people (versus a more general hard-to-deliver messaging company.) And I would not have good things to say about a company that couldn’t own its decisions and face the people themselves.

    2. idi01*

      Great business idea Allison. I would definitely pay you to deliver awkward/embarrassing/critical messages to some of my colleagues.

    3. Mike C.*

      I can only imagine such a thing would only cause the reaction to be much, much worse. Not only the pain of whatever the uncomfortable thing was, but on top of that the fact that folks were completely unwilling to actually talk to you about it.

      I know this is meant to be tongue in cheek here, but I would certainly be really insulted.

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I don’t like LinkedIn posts as I don’t like how it makes them appear on my profile.

    Also, my employer asks that staff don’t comment on our official social media feeds as it can look like we’re trying to overly influence or dominate conversation or being too self-congratulatory.

    On a similar note, I don’t care to comment on colleagues’ posts either for the same reason – when people do that it can look like the employer is patting itself on the back.

    So I really hope you can take Alison’s feedback on board.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’ve never noticed that you could like LinkedIn posts. Now I’m going to have to go look.

      1. JD*

        I didn’t know this either but then again I have literally never read a single Linkedin post, so there’s that.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      I know plenty of people with social media accounts who don’t interact with any of it except by reading. I’m on LinkedIn because it’s considered professionally necessary at this point, but I interact with it as little as possible (which is probably defeating the purpose, but I have a profile and that’s good enough for now).

      It’s kind of creepy that LinkedIn shows people who reads their articles (unless you pay for anonymity), that’s part of why I don’t use it as actively as it was probably intended.

  9. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 This doesn’t need to be awkward for you. In the words of (I think?) Captain Awkward, you can return the awkwardness to sender.

    He is making it awkward by taking calls in the copy room. It’s okay for him to learn from experience that this is a problem. So you don’t need to feel awkward about asking him to move out of the way of the printer, presuming it is indeed obviously a printer and not, like, invisible or camouflaged as a police telephone box.

    If you take calls near a printer, a natural consequence of that may be that people need to get past you.

    I don’t think it would be the worst thing if someone collected a print-out, or checked the toner or that the drawer has paper in it, every. single. time he’s on the phone…

    1. Artemesia*

      This guy is sneaking into their space to hide that he is doing phone calls on company time. Someone should come down on this hard. He is using space that is not his to use and annoying the people who do work there who have to listen to his calls and work around them. He needs to be told that this is not X company space and he needs to take his calls to one of his own conference rooms. Sheesh.

      1. Colette*

        It’s possible that he’s not hiding that he’s making calls, just trying to get a little distance from his colleagues so that they don’t hear the details his impending divorce/bankruptcy/medical issues/legal battle. His coworkers would be more likely to show up in space allocated to the company they work for. But it’s still ok to ask him to take it elsewhere.

        1. Liane*

          I agree with Artemesia that he is trying to hide from his own employer. The OP said the guy’s company has open conference rooms, and conference rooms have doors. So he could avoid disturbing his coworkers without “trespassing.”

          1. Colette*

            I’ve sat beside conference rooms, and they’re not private just because they have a door. I heard far more than I wanted to about a coworker’s divorce.

            I mean, he might be hiding from his own employer, but I don’t think that’s guaranteed.

        2. Guacamole Bob*


          I was a grad student when I got pregnant via artificial insemination, and I took a lot of calls in weird nooks three departments away. I felt a little awkward about someone I didn’t know potentially overhearing, but not nearly as awkward as if it had been a classmate or faculty member walking in on me talking to a sperm bank or a fertility clinic or my ob/gyn. And I was only a grad student where the consequences of people I knew finding out my pregnancy plans before I was ready to tell them wouldn’t have been as difficult to handle as in many office jobs.

          My father once mentioned that when he had prostate cancer he took a lot of phone calls during work hours in his car.

          The fact that this guy is taking calls in a spot where people walk in and out all the time means this may not be what’s going on, but he probably has his reasons. But you can still tell him to knock it off.

          1. Artemesia*

            This brings back shudders about the days when I was a public school teacher, there were no cell phones, and the only phone we had access to during the day time was in the teacher’s lounge — or we could use the AA’s phone outside the principal’s office. Such fun making the call to the gynecologist or whatever.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            My old job, people used to take highly personal phone calls from their desks. Bill payments, family issues, health concerns. They didn’t seem to care that all their neighbors knew that a bill collector was on them for skipping a payment, or they were trying to negotiate a lower rate with their bank.

            Meanwhile, whenever I had to make a doctor’s appointment or take care of some other personal matter, I’d literally wait until lunch or otherwise go to a hall with no desks or go all the way outside to the parking lot.

            I really appreciate that the culture in my current office is that people leave our space (we don’t have the whole building, just half a floor), and make calls from the open hallway or the stairwell nearby. It’s soooo much quieter, and drama-free.

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      I tend to be a passive aggressive person and while it would seem like I would agree with your last paragraph, I think that would be too subtle. Allison’s advice is better. Just say something and rip the bandage off at once rather than spending to much energy on making it awkward every time he goes in there.
      Also, perhaps placing a sign on the door saying XYZ employees only might help.

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        I just reread the question and saw that there is no door. You could place the sign on the wall then.

        1. Jeanne*

          You don’t need a sign (or an email as OP suggested) to everyone when one person is the problem. Why annoy many people? Just be direct with the phone call guy.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            It’s possible that people don’t want to say anything because Other Company rents the building too, and some of them may not even be clear on whether or not this guy is “allowed” in their printer room. A sign that says “This Company Employees Only” is a bit passive-aggressive, but the point would be to let This Company employees know they’re okay to kick the Other Company employee out (assuming he doesn’t read the sign and gtfo on his own).

            Signs that designate who a space is assigned to are different than signs that say things like “WASH YOUR F#CKING DISHES PLZ” because the former is intended to incite action via empowering others while the latter is intended to incite action via shaming the offender(s).

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        Yeah, I wish I had done this with a colleague at my last job who was having a dispute with his bank and Amazon. We had an open space, and he would call either Amazon or the bank so often, and spend so long on the phone with them, that I had all of the details of his issue memorized, including the exact amount of the refund he was demanding.

        I wasn’t his boss so I never said anything to him. I’m not sure how he would have taken it, but at least I could have tried instead of listening to that shiz every. damn. day.

      3. Antilles*

        I don’t think a sign (or OP’s suggestion of a building-wide email) would solve the issue. We’re talking about a dude who apparently sees nothing wrong with using a different company’s small and cramped copy room to make personal calls on work time. That doesn’t really sound like the kind of guy who’s going to (a) notice a sign, (b) stop and read the sign, and/or (c) realize that it’s meant for him.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I agree with your perception of this dude, but the sign gives company employees something to point at if he gives them any pushback, and having a sign present has given me the guts to ask someone to be quiet in an ExCompany’s quiet room (it says “QUIET ROOM” right on the wall why are you having an angry phone call with your child in here?!).

    3. HannaSpanna*

      I love that phrase ‘return awkward to sender.’ He is making it awkward by using the space (and doesn’t seem to be picking up the cues that its annoying) so yeah, just be more blatant. It may feel awkward… but it should be awkward for him.
      And I feel if you are confident (or at least act confident) in clearly interrupting his phone call to politely tell him he needs to leave the space and waiting til he does, then your colleagues may follow your lead.

    4. Cramped Copy Room (#5 OP)*

      Thanks so much for helping me with the push of turning the awkward back onto him! I have the cube closest to the room, and use a standing desk, so I can see when he goes in there. Next time it happens, I’m going to say something. Yesterday when he did it, I made up an excuse to make it super awkward for him—went in and pretended I needed stuff from the drawer he was leaning against.

      We have a great relationship with the other company, and I tend to overthink things and don’t want to hurt that relationship. But asking this dude to respect our space isn’t going to destroy a relationship.

    5. Susanne*

      Ramona Flowers. If you were in a coffee shop with a friend and the friend got up to use the restroom leaving his jacket on the chair and someone sat down in it, would you:

      A) Passively-aggressively sigh, chew loudly, or make the space uncomfortable hoping the person would leave, or
      B) Use your words and matter-of-factly say in a cheery, unapologetic voice “Sorry, but that seat’s taken – my friend is sitting there” with no awkwardness whatsoever in full expectation that the person would say “oops, sorry!” and leave. (You’re not really sorry, but it’s a social word.)

      If you would do B rather than A, it seems to me that this is exactly the same approach called for here, in the same tonality. “I’m sorry, we can’t allow non-employees to use this room” or whatever.

  10. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW2: Your breaks are your personal time during the working day, if knitting makes you happy and helps you get through the day then go for it.

    1. Snark*

      Given that OP2 is representing not just themselves but their employer, which directly affects whether contracts and option years get awarded, I think there’s more factors at work than “if it makes ya happy.”

      1. Anna*

        Right, but it doesn’t mean the OP can’t take a break and walk away from their desk to take a breather and do some knitting. This idea of not taking regular breaks when you’re exempt doesn’t mean you NEVER take breaks and really, as long as you’re not being obvious or taking advantage, I don’t think anyone would give you side eye if you stepped away from your cube/desk and if asked said you needed to take a quick break from looking at document/computer screen/spreadsheet/whatever.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Walk away and take a quick break to get coffee or walk around, yes. But to sit and knit? It’s going to come across as really out of place in many offices/many jobs.

  11. Zuppa da clams*

    LW #5- I am having almost this exact problem! We’re a small business of about I manage the hospitality part of the staff and my own boss manages the service part (because we have not found a suitable person for lead in that role.) It’s a female-heavy industry. One of the newer service hires is constantly FaceTiming his girlfriend in the breakroom. He’s on headphones but we hear his part of the conversation and she’s usually lying in bed (clothed.) He looks like he’s talking to thin air. He speaks full volume. He will spend his entire break or time in-between services doing this. One time, he told his girlfriend he would call her back, then began to FaceTime his ex girlfriend and announced to her and the whole breakroom,”Yo, we can’t talk anymore, it’s not healthy.” We all feel uncomfortable. I talked to my boss about it, because none of his peers have stepped up and mentioned it (and I can’t-I train the service staff and can give feedback during private feedback meetings because I am the liaison between the clients and the service staff, but the service staff tends to act very superior to the hospitality staff and would rather defer to one of their own or my boss.) My boss doesn’t think it’s fair to ask him to not take private calls during his break time in the break room, but can see how it can be annoying. So now we all just try to ignore it.

    1. Artemesia*

      Super annoying and I would not permit it in shared space BUT at least he is doing it at his own place of employment. The other guy is using another company’s space for his calls. No reason at all to allow this ever.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      As much as I theoretically want the annoyed bystanders to loudly weigh in on the phone calls with their feelings about what’s being discussed, there are real-world constraints on that.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have no shame. Once in an airport lounge there was a guy absolutely braying a very personal relationship call next to me. He made no attempt to take it to a corner or be quiet, so I recommended a course of action to him. He looked stunned and said ‘this is a private conversation’ to which I replied sweeping my arm around to the 15 others sitting around him, ‘well obviously not.’ He stalked off. Everyone else hooted. Of course I would not have done such a thing if it had been a discussion of his cancer diagnosis. But lots of people have very loud calls in public places to show off. Once listened to a woman at the New Orleans airport who apparently was acquainted with the Bush family and was braying all sorts of information about the twin’s college choices, their likes and dislikes etc and this news had not yet been announced; seemed a terrible violation of their privacy in an attempt to appear important.

      2. nonegiven*

        Talk loud enough to be heard over his phone. “This is xxxx company. You don’t work here so you need to leave, please. You’re in the way.” If he doesn’t immediately leave, start commenting on the amount of time he’s spending on the phone in not his copy room and the number of other places that are not your company’s space he could use to make his calls. Just keep it up all the way out the door of your company.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      A former coworker used to spend the entire day on FaceTime with her girlfriend, who was also laying in bed. She would not even hang up when a client requested help on the computer or with faxing something, so the girlfriend would essentially be looking at the ceiling while my coworker took a break from FaceTime to do work. Not only was it super-annoying, but I also had to explain to her that depending on what the client was saying it could be a huge confidentiality breach to have some girl in bed listening in on your conversations without your knowledge. That conversation went nowhere, of course. But luckily it’s not my problem anymore.

    4. Cramped Copy Room (#5 OP)*

      Oh my god. Thank god my office dude doesn’t Facetime. That’d make awkward into downright wrong. I’ve FaceTimed ONCE at work, and that was my niece’s birthday, a 90 second call, and I blocked off a break and basically left the office to do it (went down to the lobby of the building with headphones).

      However, I have used Facetime a LOT, especially when I was a student overseas, and I know how easy it is for that conversation to get very loud very quickly without realizing it. There have been times when I realized I was practically yelling at my niece to give the phone back to her dad when I was walking down the street, which was probably not a great look. So it’s entirely possible this dude has zero idea of how much you can actually hear.

      So I’m going to give you permission to be awkward with me and point out just how much you can hear and that he may want to find a more private place outside the office to take his breaks if he’s going to continue with this!

  12. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Removed a snarly/rude comment, in case anyone is wondering where their responses to it went, and I intend to remove any additional snarly/rude ones.

  13. Marzipan*

    #2, I know one office where everyone has their own little ‘on lunch’ sign that they display at their desk at the appropriate time (held up in a photo clip). It acts as a visual sign to co-workers that they aren’t available for work queries at that time, but in your case of you wanted to knit it would also maybe help explain that this is your break time, not just you randomly making a sweater in work time? It might be something to explore if the office culture seems like somewhere that would work.

    1. LW2/OP2*

      Hm, not really a thing here – people go out for lunch or eat in the lunch room or go run errands.

      It’s rare that people eat at their desks (both in my country and at this particular client – federal government, haha)

      I’ve considered just escaping to a meeting room/phone booth for a few minutes but I kinda feel bad about that – we’re so busy, how can I want to take time to knit?

      1. Jeanne*

        Sorry but I saw this twice. You have phone booths at work? Are they really small? Is it an open office? I’m surprised.

        1. OP2/LW2*

          It’s an open office, yes. They’re also very small. They literally just tiny rooms meant for people to take phone calls in so they don’t disturb others (or when they need privacy)

        2. Alter_ego*

          I am part of the design process for offices, and phone booths are quite common now with open offices. Just a small room with a chair and a small table, sometimes not even a power outlet, so that people can make private phone calls.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            I think it’s a really cool idea. At my old office, people would have their calls in their cubes, or go to a semi-empty area, but unless they stole an empty office (there weren’t many) or conference room (ditto), there wasn’t any privacy available for making personal calls. My current place, people go out to a stairwell, but if there are multiple people on different floors making calls it becomes less private as the sound echoes.

            I thought a small room for just that purpose would be an awesome idea.

          2. Jeanne*

            I was unaware. I guess it makes sense. (Or we could kill the open office but that’s a different problem.)

        3. k8*

          yeah this is really common– without them, there’d only really be the conference rooms for calls, and it doesn’t make much sense to take up an entire large room when all you really need is a closed door. (it would be nicer, of course, if we could just have our own offices/cubes, but when money/space is tight it makes sense)

      2. hbc*

        If you’re all really busy, I think maybe you can’t take breaks that look like anything less than productive, or at least like you might be thinking about work stuff. Getting coffee is picking up fuel, taking a walk might be going to find someone or just walking and thinking, and a break for personal web browsing might not be noticed. But getting “caught” taking time out to knit, juggle, draw, read a novel, write a novel, do tai chi, play Candy Crush, or solve a Rubik’s cube is going to affect your reputation, whether you’re entitled to that time or not, whether it makes you more effective or not.

        If disappearing into a phone booth would have plausible work reasons, cautiously take advantage. But otherwise you’re stuck either using your lunch or finding other ways to mentally refocus.

        1. Yorick*

          But don’t go to the phone booth to knit. I think you just can’t knit at work at most offices. It has the look of something you do while bored with nothing going on, so it would look strange to do it at work.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I think this is the crux of it, and it’s just an unfortunate optics issue. I have no idea why having something like a fidget spinner or fiddling with a pen in a meeting is “this helps me focus” and knitting is “excuse me, I’m bored” – or why going out to get a coffee is “need to clear my head” but going to the break room to knit is “hobby time! Since work is boring, I like to do something fun instead.” But I do feel it and OP should be aware that this is the signal many people will get.

        2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          I wouldn’t reserve a phone booth for break activities because someone may need the phone booth for some work reason. I would only use phone booths for work calls that require privacy, and maybe in some situation for private calls, if I had a private call I need to do and it’s not possible to do it outside business hours. But not often for that either because that’s not what the phone booths are for.

          In general I would say that everything depends on whether you have official break time or not. If in your country/field/workplace there are detailed work contracts that determine the amount of breaks you have in a day, then I would say you can do whatever you want on those breaks, and bosses have no right to say or think anything negative about it. If there isn’t official break time then it’s different because you don’t want to look like you’re slacking. Another thing to consider is how you can prove you’re getting stuff done. If the work results are easy to count, then as long as you have assembled the required amount of chocolate teapots during your workday, nobody should have any reason to complain about what else you’ve done during the day. In many cases it’s much more complicated.

    2. Linden*

      Wow, this is a great idea. Because I totally agree with Alison on this one, both in that it looks bad and that it shouldn’t. People waste a lot of time doing non-work related things on their computers and getting coffee and people usually don’t bat an eye, but to knit or read a book on your lunch break- which would probably be much more refreshing (not to mention more productive) than checking social media or your personal email- is somehow seen as unprofessional.

  14. SusanIvanova*

    About three months into my first professional job, they sent me and another equally new employee to NYC for a week to do demo duty at a trade show. The VP of engineering himself told us to take full advantage of it when we weren’t working – go to plays, try out restaurants, see the sights. Even told us the tricks about cheap same-day Broadway tickets. IIRC I saw Cats.

  15. HannahS*

    LW2, I’ve found that when I knit in work/worklike places, people have a lot to say about it. Usually it’s along the lines of “OMG! You knit! That’s so cool! What do you make! I wish I knew how to knit!” which is fine, if a bit obnoxious on repetition. But in some places (which were ugh for a variety of reasons) I’ve also gotten the “OMG that’s so CUUUUUTE” or “Oh of course YOU would KNIT” which as a young woman who comes across as “traditional” isn’t to my advantage. It cements me in peoples’ minds as cute, sweet, harmless, etc. in a way that I don’t think is conducive to workplace success. So something to consider about the optics. It reminds me of baking for your coworkers; it’s not automatically a no-no, but unfortunately it’s not always the best choice if you’re a woman.

    1. OP2/LW2*

      Haha, oh my gosh, I got the “of course YOU would knit” comment for the first one just the other day! (I had my knitting on my desk because I broke a pair of needles the other week when I sat down on them when I had the in my coat pocket.)

      Though honestly it was from a fellow knitter and I chose to take it in the kind way it was intended :)

      1. HannahS*

        Aw, well from a fellow knitter it’s a compliment! But it sure did get my hackles up when it sounded like a power play.

    2. Yvette*

      “So something to consider about the optics. It reminds me of baking for your coworkers; it’s not automatically a no-no, but unfortunately it’s not always the best choice if you’re a woman.”

      EXACTLY!!!! To me it screams “grandma”. (And this is coming from someone who, while not actually a grandmother, is old enough and has grand nieces.)

      1. Red 5*

        It’s actually a rising trend in younger generations too, from what I’ve seen, among a lot of other sort of Depression era crafting. Or maybe it’s just among certain types of younger people, it could be a more hipster thing than I realize, but it is definitely more and more popular in younger demographics.

        That doesn’t change the perception, just an interesting thing I’ve noticed.

  16. acmx*

    Alison, I’m interested in Alison’s Awkward Conversation delivery service. Do you have a sign up form? Thank you :)

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Me too. I already get recruited to do awkward conversations in my personal and professional life, so I might as well start getting paid extra for it.

      1. DaBlonde*

        I often had to give the awkward messages at my old job.
        Memorable ones were; wake up the guy that fell asleep at his desk (it was a side effect of his medication) and tell the new hire that he couldn’t smoke in the parking lot because we were considered a school.
        Good times.

    2. FD*

      Services start with the “Sorry, I’m not interested in joining your book club” and advance from there to the deluxe “Your body odor is a problem” model, complete with in-office props and visual aids.

    3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      Yes. Sign me up as well. Is it work-related conversations only? Because I have a friend who wants to follow me when I move out of state with my partner next year. I need someone to tell her it’s not really appropriate to follow other people’s families across the country where she’ll have to sit a new bar exam and not know anyone but me.

      1. Marthooh*

        I’m thinking Ask A Manager should team up with Captain Awkward to deliver the full gamut of services.

  17. CoffeeLover*

    As a consultant, you should absolutely NOT knit at the clients site. Regardless of how your client takes it, your bosses at your firm will not be happy about it. You’re held to a higher standard (because theyre paying high fees for you to be there) and anything that can even slightly be perceived as goofing off is really looked down on. I’m fairly sure your bosses would be mortified if they found you knitting at the clients site. (I used to be a consultant.)

    1. OP2/LW2*

      Knowing my bosses – they wouldn’t be mortified! That still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, which is why I wrote in to ask Alison.

      But they really really would not think I was an idiot just because I was considering it!

      (I don’t work at one of the big strategy firms and my firm is unusually humane, though. That would be different, I think. My current project (the one I mention in the letter) has me working with consultants from some of those big strategy firms and boy do they have a different culture to my firm. They work SO MUCH MORE. I’ve checked several times with my PM, my counselor and the lead partner if that is expected of me as well, just to keep up, and the partner’s exact response “No! We can’t be handing out charity to clients just because other firms do things differently. And besides, I don’t think anyone is productive working more than 8 hours a day.”

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I don’t think you’re stupid for considering it! And as others have said here, there’s definitely places that would be totally fine with it. (Sorry if I came off overly harsh in my comment.) I did come from one of the big firms and you’re right that the culture is.. well something else. I do think though that you still have to keep in mind the position you’re in as a consultant. Consultants are paid much higher rates than employees. Of course that money doesn’t go straight to YOUR pocket, but that’s the number employers have in mind when they see you. If an employer sees an employee slacking off, they’re going to react differently than if they see you do it. Because they’re paying much higher rates (sometimes by the hour) for you to be there. Consulting firms (big and small) are highly aware and concerned about this fact because they need to ensure the client sees their value. Now we’re not actually talking about slacking off here, since you’d like to knit on your break. But it’s very easy for someone to perceive it that way. I just wouldn’t do it or I would find a place outside the clients office where I could knit. If you really want to pursue this though, then you could run it by your partner/manager to see what they think. Honestly though, I have friends that work in boutique consulting firms (more chill) and this would not fly with them either. It would come off as somewhat tonedeaf to the unique position consultants have at a client site. Not career ruining tonedeaf, but it’s an odd request for sure. And I just don’t know any consultant that would be okay with it.

        1. OP2/LW2*

          And I agree with you!

          Honestly – I am not arguing with you! I was very unsure so I wrote Alison and she confirmed my suspicions. I won’t be pursuing it. End of story! Where did you get the idea that I’m hellbent on doing this despite everyone saying not to?

          1. CoffeeLover*

            I think it’s a good thing that you asked the question with an open mind. I wasn’t sure from your original response to my comment whether you were still considering it, so I was just giving you an option if you weren’t satisfied with our responses and wanted to get a real-world perspective on it.

            1. OP2/LW2*

              Thanks! Sorry for the shortness, it’s been a very long week.

              Nope, I agree that it’s not a great idea and I also don’t think my bosses would be mortified :)

              1. Snark*

                My bosses would not be mortified, but I think they’d be kind of like….yeah, so I understand, but maybe don’t.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        OP2, I feel your pain. I worked from home for 8 years and knit during every last one of my telecons, of which there were many. I also developed the skill of being able to knit while reading stuff on the computer, which actually helped me concentrate more than reading while not knitting. Now I’ve been at an office for nearly 6 months and it’s making me crazy that I can’t knit while reading stuff. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of playing with my hair which is the reason I started knitting in the first place. It’s a bit silly that knitting is rather frowned upon while working but playing with your hair is not, but non-knitters really don’t know how easy stockinette and garter stitch is and bosses don’t understand how little attention easy knitting requires. Sure, you’d have to stop paying attention to work once in awhile, like when counting rows or whatever, but how is that any different from checking your personal email or FB while working??

        It’s too bad, is all I’m saying. But that’s just the way it is, unfortunately. Knitting is one of the only things I can think of that you can do and absolutely concentrate on something else, but since that is only true for intermediate and advanced knitters, it’s hard to prove it. (Or is it like texting or talking on the phone and driving, where *you* think you can do both without any problems but any outside observer would see that the truth is in fact otherwise? I’d like to see a study on this topic.)

        1. Red 5*

          I’m not really to the intermediate level yet, so I can’t read and knit, but I usually knitflix or listen to podcasts, and honestly I don’t think it really diverts your attention that much so an advanced knitter could probably do differential calculus without dropping a stitch.

          I would imagine it probably occupies the same mental space as doodling, which I believe has been shown to improve performance. The problem is, you’re right, people really don’t understand how easy it can be.

  18. Nico m*

    Bad news: maybe there’s going to be Dinners With Customers arranged

    Good news: maybe you could take some key clients on a company expensed cocktail crawl.

  19. Myrin*

    This isn’t at all meant as a dig at you, OP #5, but I find it really fascinating how often people will mentally bend themselves into tiny party pretzels of annoyance and wonder what an earth they can do about Situation, seemingly all without ever considering that they can just talk to the source of annoyance/problem head-on. It doesn’t sound like OP has anything to do with “this dude”, as it says to wonderfully in the headline, and what he’s doing is kinda weird and kinda rude regardless so please, OP, don’t let anything stop you to approach him about it!
    (It also seems a tiny bit to me like you maybe think you can’t say anything to him precisely because you have nothing to do with him? Or that you need some kind of seniority to be allowed to do this? In which case, nope, go right ahead and speak with him, this really shouldn’t be a problem!)

    I’m also loving “I’m thinking I should rent myself out to deliver mildly awkward messages like this since clearly there is a huge market for it.”, btw, since this is something I’d excel at. I have no idea why but I just have no problem with voicing awkward things, I seem to be naturally immune to it or something. On the other hand, I’m often not willing to do the hard work for others or have them conveniently get out of having an awkward talk themselves so maybe I wouldn’t be so well-made for such a thing after all? I guess it depends on the situation.

    1. Zathras*

      I can sympathize with the OP because I am an expert mental pretzel twister, but this situation is a relative softball – this guy doesn’t work with you or for you, so there aren’t really any consequences if your request upsets him or ruffles his feathers. You don’t have any relationship with him that needs managing. Even if he reacts to your request by deciding you’re a huge jerk, it doesn’t matter!

      Learning that another person reacting poorly does not automatically mean I did something wrong, and that therefore there are situations where it’s OK to just not care how the other person reacts, has been one of the struggles of my adult life.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I know, right? I mean, this should be a 60-second conversation.

      “Hey, you work for Sucrocorp, right?”


      “Okay. This is the copy room for Wakeen’s Teapots LTD. You need to not make your phone calls in here. Thanks.”

    3. fposte*

      I think this is one of these areas where even for those of us who know better in the abstract it’s still often a challenge to really do it (Alison herself has noted in the weekend threads that she’s been uncomfortable having such a conversation with a hair stylist, I believe). I like the fact that there’s a lot of discourse now to encourage people to do just that; that might help normalize it for people who are really uncomfortable.

      1. Myrin*

        So much yes to the encouraging discourse! This site in particular has helped me so much with wording and phrases to use in uncomfortable situations – like I said, I’m naturally good at this in a way where I’ve never really felt a mental block stopping me from actually confronting someone, but so often that was conveyed by “mildly annoyed tone of voice/many blahs and ähs/wild hand flailing/mean facial expression” and not so much by my outstanding rhetorical skills. AAM has helped me a ton with coming up with some stock phrases to have at the read (although I still forget them all the time but whatever, baby steps).

      2. Lil Fidget*

        To me, I don’t have as much issue with being direct in the situations where the person is a stranger where I won’t see them again. As in this case – the guy doesn’t even work there. I struggle SO MUCH with unpleasant conversations when I want to maintain a peaceable relationship with the other person. It shouldn’t be hard, but I don’t always like it when people set boundaries with me, and other people don’t like it when I set boundaries with them! I’d love to hire Alison hehe.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        But see, I’d have a hard time having an uncomfortable conversation with my hair stylist, because I have a relationship with her. But this guy? He’s nothing to me. He’s some a-hole using the space my employer pays for, and I’d have no problem saying “take it elsewhere, bub.”

    4. WellRed*

      I agree, Myrin. I thought the same about the recent letter where a job candidate kept getting copied on the company’s emails. Just say something!

    5. a1*

      I agree. And many times, what others consider an awkward conversation I would have never seen that way. It’s opened my eyes a lot. For example, in this instance, I’d have no problem saying “This is not your company/office, please make your phone calls elsewhere. It makes things difficult for us when you’re here.” Or even shorten it to variation of the last sentence and if asked/pressed further then say the first. And I’m about as mild mannered as it gets, but this wouldn’t be a thing for me.

    6. JD*

      I can agree here. I personally would just say “hey Bob can you take your calls somewhere else so I can do my work in here”. But then again I am kind of a bitch…well ya know, a firm woman manager in the workplace, so according to most, same thing.

  20. Annie Mouse*

    I don’t work in an office, so it is a bit of a different environment, but I have sat on my breaks knitting, crochetting, and crossstitching before. It has earned me some light hearted jokes but it’s also created some interesting conversations with people. I probably wouldn’t sit at a desk and do it, but I wouldn’t see a problem with someone knitting on their break

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’ve had the same knitting experience. I knit fairly often in the lunch room and it’s consistently been a good conversation starter, but I’m not in the office either.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        On the other hand, would somebody really SAY, “how weird that you’re doing a hobby at work. I think less of your professionalism as a result”? Only a weirdie would say that out of the blue but people might think it.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Well, no, they probably wouldn’t, but as Allison always says, it’s a know your workplace issue. I can absolutely see that, in an office, “Rockstar ready to move into high places in the company” and “Enthusiastic knitter” don’t go together, but it is different in a school. First, ambitious rockstars heading to high places are not looked on favourably by front line teachers, so being that kind of professional has a cost (unless you do want out of the classroom and into the administrative level and don’t care what your peers think of it). Second, I think teachers and principals tend to see professionalism mostly as your behaviour in front of the class (and in interactions with parents) and, within reason, the standards of what you can discuss and how are very relaxed in the staffroom because we really need that space to blow off steam. I think fellow teachers are more likely to read “Humble Schoolmarm had a rough morning and needs to relax in a positive way” than “Humble Schoolmarm isn’t professional” in my world.

      2. Red 5*

        Same. People usually have genuine and fun questions, or they want to tell you about what they’re knitting at home, or about how their grandmother used to knit. I’ve gotten to know so many co-workers in a new light because of my own hobby. I am in an office, but not a very up tight work environment.

  21. Laura*

    OP 5- Wow… I rarely make calls in my workplace break room- if I need to, I always ask- even though it’s usually a “yes you’re off the clock go ahead”, I’d rather be cautious. And they’re rarely embarrassingly, turn a listeners ears red personal- usually its me cancelling some bus reservations for the next week.

    I would be absolutely mortified to be using another business’ space to make even those calls.

    Can’t decide if it’s as awkward as the bathroom call letter a week or so ago. Is there a cell phone etiquette list somewhere?

    Good luck.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      The difference here is that it’s a person from another company going into OP’s company’s space to make personal calls, not the calls themselves.

    2. Artemesia*

      There are two views of public space. Some people are taught as I was that ‘it is public space (this park, this lunch room, this break room) so you need to be considerate of others and keep the music down (take the loud call somewhere else, clean up after yourself)’ Others seem to have the view ‘this is public space so I can do whatever I want and screw you.’ I have seen mothers with kids with loud boom boxes actually tell people who asked them to keep it down this i.e. ‘hey it is a public place, they can do what they want.’

  22. KellyK*

    For the knitter, I absolutely feel you on wanting to knit to relax when things are busy. If you do find out that it would be weird to knit in the breakroom, and the knitting lunch break is really important to you, it might be worth finding another spot nearby. Your car, a park if the weather’s decent, a Starbucks or Panera. Since you’ve got an hour for lunch, even if you have to take 15 minutes to get somewhere that is else and another 15 back, that leaves you a good half hour of quality knitting time.

    As an aside, I really wish that there was a subtle and culturally appropriate way to make it obvious that you’re taking a (probably unpaid) lunch break while eating/knitting/reading/Facebooking at your desk. Sometimes there isn’t anywhere convenient to go for a break. My current office doesn’t even have a break room. (We’ve got a kitchen, but nowhere to sit.) I think some people eat lunch in a conference room.

    In an ideal world, you could put a note on your door or desk that says “Lunch break!” but in actual practice that has a weird vibe. (Maybe because it comes across as demanding not to be bothered?) I mean, it’s non-work time. It should be totally normal and reasonable to kick back with your book and your sandwich, or your knitting, but there’s really no good way to pre-emptively communicate that.

    1. fposte*

      I think the comments about it being a particular issue for a consultant are making a good point, though–you don’t have any unpaid breaks from the standpoint of the people who are paying your firm.

      1. KellyK*

        I would think that you *do* have unpaid breaks if people are going out to lunch, though? Especially every single day. If they’re exempt employees, their pay or hours might not be affected, but surely the hiring company isn’t paying for their lunch break? Unless the firm is being paid by the day rather than by the hour.

        Either way, you’re right that the optics are really different for consultants (which is another reason in favor of “Knit at Starbucks” if that’s workable—if you’re out of the office, it can’t be any clearer that you’re on a lunch break).

      2. Some sort of management consultant*

        I mean – I only bill the client the hours I actually work so they’re not paying for my breaks in reality (but I realize that doesn’t matter for someone observing!)

    2. Koko*

      I have a coworker who pretty much always has his door open. The only exceptions are when he’s meeting with someone in his office and when he’s taking his lunch break. If anyone knocks on the door during his lunch, he just looks up and then points at his food (we have glass office walls so you can see in) to indicate, “I’m on lunch, come back later.”

      Of course part of the reason this work is because he tolerates people dropping by his office all day long and always leaves his door open unless he’s officially unavailable. I close my door a lot to focus and I don’t feel like I could do the same thing he does of pointing at my lunch to deter people.

    3. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I mentioned it below but I used to work in a very formal office for attorneys who were very often Partners and we were allowed to take breaks at our desk to watch Netflix (SFW of course) or browse the internet we would just put a sign on our desk that said “on lunch/break.” This was an in house hourly position, not a contracting position like the LW but this was seen as normal. Like Alison said things like this all vary by office culture. But you could ask your manager or another employee in the company if that would be okay.

    4. Yomi*

      I have a co-worker who would eat at a random spot in the parking garage even though she didn’t drive so she wasn’t eating in her car. She just found that anywhere she went in the office, even the break areas, people would want to chat and be social even if they didn’t need work stuff and she wanted to really decompress. I think she has her own office now where she can shut the door, but when I first heard that I was torn between that between genius and kind of sad.

      I usually eat at my desk because I’m just a creature of habit, and I end up doing some work during my break sometimes. But if a person comes in and asks for something I say I’ll get to it when I’m back from lunch. That’s only really okay with me because I work in an office that doesn’t have like a formal 15 minute break in the middle of the day so I figure the same amount of time I spend answering the phone during lunch is about what I spend checking my personal email or checking Facebook during the day. If it felt like it was tripping the other way I’d probably ask my co-worker where exactly this garage spot was.

  23. MuseumChick*

    Knitting is one of those things that seems to really divide people. For that reason alone I would not knit at work. You may find people that love knitting and “get it”, or people who will raise their eyebrows at it, or people who will see it in a very gendered and negative light with a “of course the X year old woman knits at work” kind of attitude that could have unforeseen repercussions for you.

    It’s an optics vs reality situation. While in reality knitting helps you focus, the optics of it are that you are taking company time to do your person craft activity. Or at least that is how some people will see it.

    1. Snark*

      It’s not just company time, it’s time the client has already bought and paid for, billed out at salary plus a bunch. And yes, of course I know, the person is on lunch, it shouldn’t matter…..but nobody likes to see the contractor reading a book, or knitting, or playing a game. There’s Many Feelings about us and our role in government.

      1. Anna*

        Then what the hell is it appropriate to do while on break? Just stare at a wall? I work for a government contractor and I understand the “but taxpayer money” freak-out, but you’ve said a lot about what they should not do on a break and really, that leaves never taking a break (kind of…ridiculous?) or what? Lunch is only appropriate if you’re reading a document? That might be too rigid.

        1. MuseumChick*

          See, I would understand reading a book on break, making a call, etc. But some some reason knitting stikes me as really odd. I don’t think it would strongly effect how I saw a person but I would see it as very out of place.

          And, again, knitting can be so divisive that I would strongly recommend knitters not knit at work (even on breaks).

          1. Red 5*

            Maybe it’s because I’ve only started knitting this year, but I haven’t seen it as being divisive at all in pretty much any context except maybe this comment thread here. Granted, I have a good job right now and it might have been different at other offices, but when people at my office find out I knit usually they either start telling me about their current work in progress, or start telling me about their crafting hobbies. Or they ask questions about it and are impressed because they think it’s much harder than it is. But it’s pretty respected and warmly received both at work and in social situations.

            Again, that doesn’t mean it’s not divisive in some offices or that it’s not an issue in some places, I just think in the current culture they’d be more the exception than the rule.

            I think knitting at your desk is only going to be acceptable in very specific circumstances and very specific offices, but knitting in the break room/kitchen after you’re done with your salad? I don’t think that should be painted with a broad brush as being unacceptable.

        2. Snark*

          No, I just go offsite to a Starbucks or whatever for breaks and lunch and do my reading, cartooning, and phone-poking there.

        3. KellyK*

          It is too rigid. But it’s an optics thing. If the people who control whether you continue to have a job or not have incorrect preconceptions about your worth and your work ethic, then you don’t have a lot of leeway.

          With your actual employer, it’s reasonable to use your unpaid break however you want, as long as you’re not distracting or interfering with anyone else’s work. But when you’re on someone else’s premises, their rules (even if they’re stupid and unwritten) are what you have to go by. It’s stupid, especially when those same people often spend work time doing the same things, but it kind of is what it is.

  24. Lynca*

    As someone that works with an office knitter- I think the key thing is to feel out what is expected for breaks and maybe even ask someone you trust if it will come across as counter to the culture. This is really one of those things that varies from place to place I’ve found. It’s not an issue where I work but I know at other offices in my agency this would be frowned on because they deal directly with clients, etc. We rarely have outside clients or internal clients in our office spaces so there’s not much of an optics issue to our bosses since we have scheduled breaks at the same time every day.

  25. Reinhardt*

    OP#3 where in Illinois is the job? I grew up in Illinois and still live here (Chicago suburbs) and I’d love to help you acclimate to Illinois if you get the job

  26. Snark*

    OP #2: The optics, particularly for a consultant/contractor, are just not that great, and you don’t want the perception to be anything but efficiency and dedication. I’m a contractor, and I avoid reading, drawing, and messing around on my phone in the shared office space. Why? Because everything I do reflects on my employer, and could affect their ability to keep getting contracts. There are a lot of federal employees who resent contractors and think they’re overpaid, under-productive wastes of money, and some of them have decision-making power. You don’t want to feed into that perception by appearing focused on personal pursuits at the office, especially when everybody is busy and on deadline and you’re being billed out at exorbitant rates to be there. Yes, I know, even when you’re on lunch.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, I agree that you don’t need to worry about what your colleagues are doing after the work event, but also don’t be so quick to assume that they wouldn’t want to join you.

    Often when people like that are away in a different city they let their hair down a little. Think for example of the preacher’s daughter from Footloose. Most of the time she was the straightlaced, stereotypical “good girl”, but after hours she transformed into a dancing and drinking wild woman.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      I don’t think that character trope is accurate or helpful. OP’s coworkers might be interested in going to a fancy destination bar for the atmosphere or something, but most professional adults who’ve decided to not drink alcohol don’t take up social drinking just because they’re away from home—and if they do, it’s really concerning to watch.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    It seems weird to me that knitting is considered off limits but people think nothing of going outside for 15-20 minutes multiple times a day to smoke.

    1. OP2/LW2*

      As a side note: Smoking is actually getting pretty rare in my country and is expressively forbidden at most government agencies (or just outside the buildings) and hospitals, for employees at least. So that would definitely not be acceptable at my current client!

    2. MuseumChick*

      Eh, people give smokers a really hard time these days, at least that has been my experience. People think nothing of telling smokers, in great detail, the harm they are doing to their bodies and all the reasons they should stop. I have a friend who hid the fact that he smoked for months from our group because in the past people had been huge jerks to him about it.

    3. the gold digger*

      I had a disagreement with my all-female co-workers at a handicrafts co-op when I was a Peace Corps volunteer.

      1. All women
      2. Mission was empowering women
      3. Revenue source was the traditional woven rugs and blankets the women made

      We had these all-day meetings where we accomplished nothing, so I started bringing my knitting.

      The director, who was one of about four attendees who were nursing babies AT THAT MOMENT, told me I could not knit because it was “distracting.”

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        As a knitter AND a baby-lover, I say: Ugh. People are so unaware, sometimes. Yes, lady, your baby is distracting – because I want to eat its toes! But I’m pretty sure my knitting is not nearly so charismatic, and it never makes eye contact.

        (I was on a plane this morning. I sat next to a young woman, her 7-month-old, and her MIL. They had that “should I worry” look until I said, “I get to sit next to a baby?! Great!” and then everyone relaxed. My only complaint was that I didn’t get to play with him. And then I pulled out my knitting and worked on a sock.)

  29. chica*

    OP#1 – I think it depends on the industry and the nature of your business trip. In my industry, conferences are normally held in Vegas, and the business trip often includes dinner with clients or there might be a party or reception to attend. I also travel occasionally to a company event where there are meetings, awards dinner, reception events, even one time evening of club dancing. The problem comes in when newer people mistake this for anything more than what it is (a business social opportunity and obligation) and treat it like hanging out with their new best friends and get wasted . . . more than one person in my experience has acted inappropriately, stayed out way too late (either with their business contacts or going out after with actual friends), and had trouble functioning the next day with clients.

    From your letter, you seem really aware that would not be good! But I brought it up just to mention that after the whatever-it-was that brought you there, it depends on the industry if there’s after hours expectations. I suggest asking: “just so I know what to expect on this trip, are there any business dinners or receptions I will need to attend after the conference/meeting/whatever?” Knowing this ahead is also important for packing the correct clothes. Because finding out that you are expected to attend a cocktail reception (or go clubbing, seriously?!?) when you didn’t bring a dress is pretty annoying. Usually, they’d let you know I hope and provide an agenda! But it never hurts to ask, especially if you are new.

    1. CheeryO*

      That’s definitely a smart thing to ask. I think the tricky part is that it can be a little more touch-and-go in some work cultures. We usually don’t have anything official organized, but it would be a little tone deaf to miss an impromptu dinner since it would be a good opportunity to chat with colleagues who we hardly ever see, and there’s usually some good big-picture work talk that’s especially helpful for newer staff to soak up. I think as long as OP keeps an ear to the ground for evening plans and takes part about as much as everyone else does, they’ll be fine. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t get away for an evening or part of an evening.

    2. OP1*

      Oh my gosh. I hadn’t even thought about the clothes! Thank you, I will definitely be asking this question.

  30. PersephoneUnderground*

    Ha- the knitting thing is 100% office culture! I laughed because in my office I currently sit a few cubicles away from two different people who have their current knitting projects sitting on their desks in plastic baggies right now (they don’t sit next to each other). They don’t work on them much, just a row or two here and there, but it’s totally normal to see them knitting a bit when I assume they’re taking a break, or more intensely when they’re on lunch or in the break room. One is exempt, the other is probably not. I also knit, but I’m not organized enough to bring it with me to work. It may have to do with the office being 90% women (hotels/event planning field skews female), or just that one of these two people has been here forever so slowly was able to phase it in as a normal thing, then the other probably picked it up as ok having seen it from her. I now feel like I could totally bring mine in if I wanted. So this is totally fine some places, probably weird others.

    1. Red 5*

      Yup, as I commented below, I actually knit with some work friends during lunch regularly. I don’t knit during the day because I’m not coordinated enough to do it while really paying attention to anything else (I can’t listen to podcasts while I work either like my spouse does). But the women I know actually can knit while doing just about anything else that doesn’t involve their hands. So reading articles, watching training videos, having a few minutes waiting for a computer process to finish up that you don’t want to mess up…there’s actually tons of moments where a talented knitter could get a few rows in. I have no clue how they keep count, but I guess it’s muscle memory.

      That annoying part though is that people who don’t knit or aren’t around knitters really don’t get that. It honestly can be no different than somebody who clicks their pen or twirls it in their fingers, but people really don’t see it that way because it’s actually productive I guess.

  31. CmdrShepard4ever*

    LW #2 Knitting at work

    I used to work in a very formal office as a legal assistant. Unless we were doing something work related or on lunch/break we were expected to be at our desks ready to help attorneys or anyone else with what they needed. We were allowed to take our break at our desk to watch Netflix, or use the internet but we were just asked to put up a small paper sign visible to people that walked by that said “on lunch/on break” this way if anyone walked by and saw us on the computer they knew we were not just slacking off.

    I don’t know what your office is like but that could be a possibility.

    1. KellyK*

      I really like this as an office culture thing. It’s probably going to look out of step for the OP to do it if people aren’t already doing it in that office, unfortunately.

  32. Beancounter Eric*

    OP1: Other than attending any “mandatory” meals, enjoy!! As for inviting your coworkers to join you on your roaming, play it by ear.

    OP2: I’d like to tell you knit to your heart’s content during breaks/lunch…..does your building have a lobby with seating where you could get out of the workspace, go sit, and knit away during lunch? And think hard about NOT going to lunch every day with the team….is that much “business” discussed during lunch? And as for the “optics” (hate that usage!!!)….aside from the issue of being a Consultant (see multiple other comments), if anyone has a problem, it speaks poorly on them.

    OP5: Tell them “This space is for the use of XYZ Company, you are not part of XYZ Company, and you need to leave, please.” Also, you might put up a sign to that effect at the entrance. If they continue to return, notify their HR department, and look into the legal requirements for a trespass notice. (Yes, a bit much, and may not be worth the time and effort, YMMV.)

    1. Kate 2*

      Your ex-employers are ridiculous! Honestly, I think commenters are right, some employers think we should never take breaks, or if we do we should stare at the walls!

  33. Sinds*

    Particularly in exempt jobs, a lot of people don’t take formal breaks like that. It’s of course common to take informal breaks to check your personal email, chat with someone, etc., but the idea of a formal break where you could do something like knit or read a book is not a common thing in many exempt jobs … so for many jobs and many offices, it would read as culturally out of touch and a work ethic thing. I’m not saying it should, just that it will.

    Yikes! I am an exempt employee with my own office and during lunch I *usually* close my door and read a book while eating. On occasion someone will knock and come in, and probably would have seen me with a book. I did not think this was an issue – should I be worried?

    1. PED6424*

      To be honest, I think this whole thread on #2 is way too harsh. Although for LW’s case, I wouldn’t knit since she’s a consultant. But in other general cases, I think it’s fine to read a book, knit, etc while eating lunch, especially if you have your lunch in front of you. I don’t think we have to just stare at the wall and eat while at lunch.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        This is clearly a culture thing. In my office it’s slightly weird to leave your desk at all for lunch … we’d expect you to be so focused on work (and have so much to do) that you’d bring your work to your desk and at least keep being responsive to phone / email / random inquiries from coworkers. But we are a big muckety muck group in DC that maybe takes ourselves too seriously.

        1. Kate 2*

          Honestly, the whole thing is so strange to me, since piles of research over many years have shown that taking breaks makes you MORE productive. If employers really cared about work done more than optics, they would force ALL their employees to take regular short breaks!

          1. Lil Fidget*

            The only thing I will say in our defense is, we’re not a company that’s weirdly fixated with staying late – at least, you can get ahead without doing it – and we have a somewhat flexible start time, which is nice. I often roll in at 9:15, eat lunch at my desk, and leave at 5:30. I would gladly trade the long lunch for the chance to leave promptly!!

        2. Red 5*

          I worked at a place like that once. I had brought in some schoolwork to do during my lunch break, and then when I was working on it (admittedly at my desk, but while I was clocked out) somebody brought me a task to do. I said I’d get to it when I was finished up, meaning finished with my lunch break. They assumed I meant finished with my school work and reported me to my boss for doing homework when I was at work and basically the boss said I was no longer allowed to do that, even though my co-workers were constantly online shopping for their entire shifts.

          I quit a few weeks later. I can understand that it’s sometimes hard to tell when a person is on break and when they aren’t, so even when I’m eating at my desk and not counting it towards my hours, if somebody walks up I’ll respond. But any culture that expects me to work through lunch and never have breaks is just not a workplace culture I put up with any more. So glad I’m old/experienced enough to have that freedom.

  34. Master Bean Counter*

    #1-Don’t worry about including them. I’m going on a business trip in a week and I deliberately chose a hotel 20 minutes away from where everybody else is staying. I’ll be interacting with these people all day long. I may join them for dinner one night, but I like my space. And really if they choose not to stay on the beach when it’s only 20 minutes away, that’s on them.

  35. Red 5*

    I actually have a regular lunch time knitting group with some other employees in my company. Somebody else started it, I think during a “work/life balance” push, but as soon as I wore something that I knitted into the office, I got an invite. It’s super lovely, and the main reason I bring it up is because it’s the kind of thing I think more offices need to have. The ladies in the group are all in departments I don’t interact with very often and so I’m getting to know the wider company, and recently when something weird did come up where I had to go to another department to fix it, I already knew somebody there and had a relationship with them.

    I do agree that if you’re doing it at your desk, even if you’re officially on lunch, it can look bad. It’s silly, and pretty dumb in my opinion, but there’s only so much to be done about it. I would suggest that during shorter breaks you could find a nice bench outside (depending on your local weather) to get a break from your desk too, but that just seems like it wouldn’t really give you any time to even get that many stitches done, so you’re probably better off just walking around a bit, stretching, etc.

    But lunchtime knitting should be totally doable, depending on where you’re able to eat lunch away from your desk. Some people read a book, some people play whatever matching game is currently the fad, but most people who step away from their desk do something unobtrusive and relaxing during their lunch. Honestly if I was at a company where people looked down on me for knitting when I was done eating (assuming I wasn’t at my desk where it could legit be confusing) I’d look for other jobs, because that’s a culture way too uptight for my personality.

  36. Longtime Lurker*

    The best boss I ever had spelled it out for me on the first business trip we had together. “I’m inviting you to dinner with us because I want you to know you are always welcome to come — and we’ll go somewhere nice, and I’ll put it on my expense report. But never feel like you have to have dinner with me or anyone else on a trip like this, we all need down time.”

    Of course I went, the first night — and he took us to a great restaurant. But I didn’t go the other nights, and that was totally fine.

    He was a great mentor boss, and is still my go-to reference, 15 years after I left that job. :)

  37. Red 5*

    Is anybody else reading this comment thread and thinking we need a Ravelry group for AAM fans who knit? You ladies all seem awesome.

  38. Witty Nickname*

    LW #2 – I once actually got a full-time job at a knitting store because I was knitting during my breaks at work! I would knit in the kitchen at lunch, and sometimes at my desk if there was nobody expected in the office (I was the receptionist, but rarely had people show up without an appointment, and I was able to switch the phone to an automated answering system during my breaks). I was careful with knitting at my desk, but it was a small company and everyone thought it was cool, including the (really difficult to work with) owner. One of my coworkers saw me knitting one day, said, “Oh, you knit! My relative owns a knitting store!” and she got me an interview for a part-time job there (weekends and one evening per week after work – it was great yarn money). Eventually, the owner needed someone to manage the store and brought me in full time (I was going to post this in the red flag thread, actually, but didn’t have a chance yesterday. Red flag: when the owner says “hey, you are good at paperwork, come manage this store for me.” Good at paperwork =/= good at managing a business, but I learned a lot the couple years I stayed there. Most of it about how not to manage a business).

    Now, I’m in a higher-level, exempt position and I never bring my knitting to work, even though it would probably be ok to do occasionally. Mostly I just don’t take breaks regularly enough. It would be fine to do at lunch, but the few times I tried it ended up being days I wasn’t able to take a lunch break. I wouldn’t do it on other breaks, or at my desk though.

  39. Gadfly*

    If you ever start that business, Alison, and discover you need to hire or contract out some jobs, let me know. While having to do it for myself might knot up my stomach, doing it for somebody else has always been rather fun. Which, OP5, might be part of how to do it. Imagine a friend was counting on you to do them this favor. Makes it a lot easier, puts a bit of distance into it while still being important.

  40. Imaginary Number*

    OP #1: I agree with AAM that you should definitely do something with the group 1-2 nights, since you’re fairly junior. Especially if the work trip is considered is considered an “opportunity” for you. For example, a conference or a trip that happens to be to a nice location with lots of networking opportunities. Or if you had to ask to go on the trip vs. your boss telling you to. I say this just because I’ve had senior coworkers make comments about a junior coworker who they thought were trying to get herself on a business trip just because of the location. The junior coworker in question disappeared every evening to hang out with friends who lived in the area when everyone else on the team was doing something together. I’m not saying this was a fair assessment by them, but just bringing it up as a cautionary tale.

  41. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Generally, there will be at least 1 dinner with clients or with your coworkers. Ask the most senior person what the plans are for the evenings. After that, people tend to do more of their own thing, though depending on the size of the group some people still have dinner/drinks but then maybe have an early night.

  42. Brandy*

    #2. I would just have a sign up saying “on Break” or On Lunch”. If anyone had a problem, thats on them, i manage my time. They dont need to be worried about what I’m doing.

  43. Turtledove*

    “the idea of a formal break where you could do something like knit or read a book is not a common thing in many exempt jobs … so for many jobs and many offices, it would read as culturally out of touch and a work ethic thing. I’m not saying it should, just that it will.”

    Huh. That…would explain why I kept getting side-eyed for trying to knit during slow periods, when I worked at a call center. I assumed that it was just two specific people who didn’t like the appearance, but apparently I was wrong. (I mostly only tried to do it during really specific shifts – the servers would go down for routine maintenance every Sunday from midnight until noon, leaving us still able to take calls but unable to *do* anything meaningful for the customers who were calling (including create any logs about who had called). And since I couldn’t do anything useful for the customers *anyways* until the servers came back up, I figured I might as well work on a baby blanket I was making for a co-worker.)

    I wish I’d known this at the time. But I’m glad I know it now, at least – it’ll be useful if I ever re-enter the workplace.

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