My first sip of coffee and scheduled lunch plans was what I most anticipated every work day. How I derived my first cup of the day and how I spent my lunch break was dependent on where and for whom I worked.

Several organizations created a communal coffee system for their steadfast coffee drinkers like me. We paid a nominal fee, usually a quarter or two per cup, and the monies collected covered the cost of the coffee and accessories. If you happened to be the first to arrive, then you were required to make the coffee, and if you drew the last cup, then it was your responsibility to refresh the pot. The smell of a freshly brewed pot had the power of shifting staff feelings of moodiness into genuine feelings of joy.

The places that I worked without a communal coffee plan required that I purchased my first coffee on my way to work. I am a Tim Horton’s coffee junkie, like many of my other fellow Canadians, so travelled out of my way to buy my beloved Timmy’s. The ease of the start to my work day was determined by the length of the coffee shop line-up. No line was like winning a lottery, and a speedy purchase always put a smile on my face. My morning ritual was to turn on my computer and organize my work day prior to enjoying that first sip. Any extra time afforded to me before my first meeting allowed me to savour the delightful aroma and each individual succulent sip.

The years that I commuted by train to the big city for work, required me to rethink my morning java routine. I needed a timelier pick me upper, long before my hourlong train ride ended. I learned very quickly after missing my train a few times, that I couldn’t rely on buying coffee anymore. So, I decided that I would bring my own thermos from home, to drink while riding on the train. Commuting was the least enjoyable part of my workday, but I must say, that I barely noticed the time while slurping from my convenient thermos. All the benefits reaped from drinking fresh hot coffee made the long commute ride so much more pleasurable.

One of the best organizations that I worked for announced one day, that coffee was being donated. All of the staff, including me, were ecstatic. The compassionate leadership team understood that the thoughtful gesture of providing free coffee to their employees, increased staff morale, engagement, and overall happiness. Happy employees equated to higher productivity. The employee engagement survey poll revealed that over 90% of employees working at that organization were content and enjoyed their jobs. I can honestly attest that it was my preferred organization to work for of my entire career, even if the complimentary coffee was just one of the many perks and reasons contributing to that overall work happiness.

After my morning coffee was drunk, lunch was the next event that I thought about incessantly. I likely worked through more lunch breaks than I took, particularly during the last years of my lengthy career, but the times that I was afforded an uninterrupted lunch break, I made every effort to ensure that it was most gratifying.

My early career years were spent at an organization where my home was less than a ten-minute drive to work. One of the best advantages about living so close to where I worked was that I was able to go home for lunch. My husband worked shiftwork during those years, so two weeks a month, the only time during the week that we saw each other, was during lunch. We often met up at our favourite restaurants or had our own special midday meals by ourselves at home while the kids were in school. When he was working days, I would come home and eat my set menu comprised predominantly of comfort food while watching my beloved television shows. Either a lunch date with my husband or eating lunch in my own private oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of the office, broke up my stressful day, and gave me the necessary rejuvenation that I needed to get me through the remainder of my challenging day.

My next organization that I transferred to, was a 20-minute drive away from my home and going home for lunch was no longer an option. My new place of employment was across from a beautiful waterfront trail. I kept a pair of sneakers at work and spent my lunch breaks outdoors on the trail, which brought me incredible peace. Being outside in nature is one of the best stress releasers and always puts me in a good mood. When the weather was bad, I started writing non-fiction and travel articles at work that I eventually sold to newspapers and magazines. I would close my office door and shut out the noise and create words that eventually filled my pages with stories. Writing helped break up my monotonous work day and allowed me to thrive on newfound creativity.

Engagement surveys have determined that having a best friend at work is instrumental to happiness and success. I would agree with those findings. The further I rose up the corporate ladder, the lonelier I became at work, partly because of having to work through or attend too many scheduled lunch meetings. I was so much happier at the places of employment where I was able to take a full lunch hour and where I also had a like-minded friend or friends to share those breaks with.

At a couple of jobs, friends and I experimented with different ethnic foods at lunch. We took turns finding the best places to try Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and so forth. At certain organizations, staff birthdays and other special rituals were celebrated that promoted relationships with our fellow team members. At other places of employment, friends and I would walk together during lunch, exploring new paths and roads. While walking, we helped each other solve our work and personal issues, and mostly supported each other in balancing our hectic work and family lives. At one job in particular, a friend and I went to the cafeteria and picked up the homemade soup. We shut our office door and poured our hearts out to each other, as we slurped our tasty daily soup. It was our sacred time to discuss everything including our triumphs, challenges, and personal stories. Most importantly, we created an unbreakable bond that would last away from those closed office walls.

While my first sip of coffee during my work day may have been crucial to cultivating a happy heart, it was my last spoonful of soup that was instrumental to nurturing a contented soul. Undeniably, it was the simplest pleasures that brought me the most gratitude and joy during my work days.






Submitted: February 16, 2022

© Copyright 2023 Denise Svajlenko. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


Stories by Boz

Soup is good food. And much conversation happens with good coffee.

Thu, February 17th, 2022 3:17am


It sure is and it sure does!

Thu, February 17th, 2022 3:10am

Jonathan E. Lee

One of the best jobs I've ever had was shelving books at a small library branch. Quiet environment. Nice big window panes looking out to the foothills of a great mountain range. Work that seemed useful enough to the community yet simple enough to do semi-consciously. Shelving was like a meditative exercise, affording plenty of time for quiet thought. And occasionally I'd come across an interesting book or two.

Simple things like work environment can go woefully unexamined when it comes to understanding job satisfaction.

Sat, February 19th, 2022 6:26am


They sure can. Thanks for sharing. I would also love any job with an abundance of books!

Sat, February 19th, 2022 4:24am

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