September 30, 2004
Nap at Work
It’s 3 p.m. Your eyes glaze over, and your brain seems to melt every word and number you read down to virtually meaningless characters. You wipe your eyes, hold up your head with an arm or two and silently pray for the workday to end.
We need a nap, something most of us left behind with kindergarten. But why? What happened between our single-digit and double-digit ages that made napping taboo?
Wouldn’t it be neat if we could just schedule a nap break during the day? Close down the shades, schedule it in Outlook -- even get the receptionist to stop taking calls, just for a half hour or so. In European countries like Spain, such midday naps (siestas) are normal. Where I grew up, businesses would actually close for a couple hours during weekday afternoons.
Sound funny, eh? Well, it just might be serious business. According to a 2003 report by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, drowsiness on the job costs US businesses $18 billion a year in lost productivity. And we’re not just talking money. About.com says not napping can cost increased errors, accidents, absenteeism, drug use and turnover, as well as higher group insurance premiums and decreased productivity. And yet, according to the Wall Street Journal Online, employers punish employees who nap at work -- even when they are on break.
If napping would improve our productivity and positively affect the bottom line (not to mention our work-life balance), then why the heck aren’t we doing it? Naturally, this question breeds many others: How much of a nap is a good nap? How should these naps get organized? Where should people nap? What if people don’t want to nap? And in what jobs would napping be OK? We know we wouldn’t want our pilots or our surgeons napping while they work, but what about us cubicle dwellers? Why can’t we get some rest?
While these questions may be tough, they’re workable. But until we do have a designated naptime, I think I’ll have to rely on tricking my body into staying awake through my slump.
P.S. If you live in the New York City area and don’t mind paying for your naps, you can retreat to a MetroNaps, where you can buy some time in a “pod” during your lunch break.
September 29, 2004
Married to Your Coworker(s)
Do you have a spouse at work? Not a real spouse, but someone who acts as your better half at your job. The person you go to as soon as you hear that gossip about Bill in finance, someone you trust and respect, and most importantly, someone who tells you when your shoes don’t match your shirt?
My friend and I have often joked that we are married at work. She listens to my work complaints, reminds me of how funny the picture on my work ID is and magically seems to know when I need a coffee break. We even had a fight once in which we didn’t talk to each other for three days -- I was miserable.
It makes sense. We spend the majority of our day in the same environment, and we learn each others’ behaviors just as if you were living with someone. You learn their moods, work habits and even how to complement each other.
It’s nice to have someone who understands your excitement about the new diet soda in the vending machine or the fact that your computer crashed and you’re about to throw it out the window. I have explained my job in detail to my boyfriend many times (who has never worked in an office), but he can’t tell you what I do all day.
I think these relationships are healthy, as long as your on-the-job friendships don’t prevent you from working. Our friends at work not only understand us, but they are going through some of the same things and can offer that comic relief needed to get you through the day.
September 28, 2004
Think Like a Recruiter
I was recently reading Think Like Your Customer, a book about how to be an effective salesman. There was a line in it saying something along the lines of “If you want to catch a fish, you have to think like a fish.” Pretty cheesy, right? I thought so. But there’s more than a grain of truth to that notion in more than a few situations -- a job search being one of them.
Personally, I wouldn’t implore anyone to try to think like a recruiter -- after all, they probably all think a bit differently. However, I’d urge anyone looking for a job to at least understand their trials and tribulations. Here are a few spots online where you can learn about their world just a bit:
Recruiting.com: This is a sort of blogging/community site for recruiters by recruiters. Certainly, not everything will be relevant to your job search, but reading the various posts will help you understand recruitment issues.
ERE: The Electronic Recruiting Exchange has a small cadre of renowned recruiters who contribute to the site on a daily basis. You can sign up for the ERE newsletter and receive daily articles.
Veritude: This arm of Fidelity is a recruitment firm. There’s a lot of interesting information to be culled from this site.
September 27, 2004
What Will They Think of Next?
During my commute home on Friday, I listened to They, a Missouri man formerly known as Andrew Wilson, tell NPR’s Michele Norris why he legally changed his name.
One reason is that he works so hard and he wants to enjoy and amuse himself in his time off. What does They do? He’s an inventor who can take credit for ground-effect lighting -- you know, the neon lighting people put under cars, making the vehicles look like spacecrafts. He also touted his most recent invention: Shades, which are sunglasses with little visors on them.
In addition to addressing his work/life balance, They changed his name so people have someone to take the blame for all those things that “they say” and also to have some fun with the English language by “turning a pronoun into a proper noun,” as he so eloquently puts it. He seems quite amused at the prospect of someone calling his house and asking, “Is They there?”
I’m not sure which is more annoying: They’s name change or that ground-effect lighting he’s responsible for.
September 24, 2004
Here’s to Good Health -- and a Good Job
Remember June, the woman whose awful job situation was giving her an ulcer?
Good news: She landed a new job! She’s going to go work for a textbook publisher. I think it will be right down her alley since she’s quite the academic herself.
From the email she sent me, I could tell her entire attitude has changed. Her words appeared lighter as she recounted how she gave her notice. Of course, like any smart job seeker, she’s still going to update her resume with some of my recommendations, but for now she’s ecstatic with her new opportunity.
And the timing couldn’t be better with cold season around the corner. Before you wonder what one topic has to do with the other, check out this article from WebMD. It claims that a positive attitude can stave off the common cold. It also says that more research will be done, possibly proving that a positive attitude might be able to ward off other illnesses as well.
If you don’t believe it, think about someone you know who always looks at the dark side of things, someone who rains on everybody’s parade. Did they get sick last year?
And a positive attitude’s effect on your health can help your work life, too. According to a MayoClinic.com piece on CNN.com, “Besides a lowered risk of early death, researchers found other health benefits related to positive attitude. In the study, optimists reported: Fewer problems with work or other daily activities because of physical or emotional health.”
See? It all comes full circle.
Good luck with the new job, June!
September 23, 2004
Good Deeds at Work
Yesterday I was determined to take a complete lunch break away from my desk -- I almost succeeded until I realized I had a 12:30 meeting. Feeling defeated that I didn’t have enough time to sit and eat, I went to our building’s cafeteria and hit the salad bar hard. I started throwing lettuce, various veggies and cheese into my plastic bowl -- nothing was safe. I even plopped some of that yummy blue cheese dressing on top.
As I walked towards the cashier, I realized I had a problem: I only had $5. This might be enough for a salad in some places, but if you’ve ever used a cafeteria scale, you know it utilizes a strange form of heavy vegetable excise tax. I never understood why everything else we eat is usually based on what you fit into a container (soup, sandwiches, etc.) but not salads; someone decided the heavy vegetables should cost more.
I searched through my pockets hoping more money would appear, but nothing, and it was now my turn in line. I placed the salad on the scale and hoped for the best. The cashier began pressing buttons and knobs on the scale like she was programming the space shuttle launch. Finally she announced the tally: “$5.57.”
Ughh 57 cents short! As I explained to the cashier and the 10 people around me that I didn’t have 57 cents and I might have to go get a lighter salad, someone said, “I’ll take care of it.” I looked to see who was kind enough to make this offer, and I found a complete stranger handing the cashier the money. After thanking her, she walked away, and I realized I didn’t know what company she worked for or who she was so I could pay her back.
It got me thinking of the random acts of kindness I can do for others at work. Simple things, even anonymous tasks like filling the printer with paper when the red light’s blinking, cleaning up the mess in the kitchen even if I didn’t do it, bringing in the extra cookies you had at home for your coworkers -- these are all things that take no time but can be the difference in making someone’s day. So thank you to the salad lady, and hopefully what goes around comes around, and someone will do something nice for you.
September 22, 2004
Women: Make Video Games
I used to love playing video games. Super Mario Brothers, the Legend of Zelda -- you name it, and I played it. So what happened? I got older and wiser? Nah.
The video-game industry became obsessed with morphing these games into cheap wannabe-action flicks that left little for the gamer to fiddle with other than a gun. And getting from one place to another to shoot faceless people -- with nothing to fill the gaps between hits other than some terrible dialogue or severely unclad, fake-breasted bionic-looking women -- is just boring (not to mention violent and derogatory, but that’s fodder for a whole ’nother blog entry).
So as a woman, I’ve stopped playing video games. This is a sad thing -- not for me, but for the gaming industry, which could be making a quick buck from me and my game-dropout cronies.
Why would the industry turn it’s back on women? My first thought was that perhaps I was an anomaly; maybe girls really don’t like video games, or they don’t like playing them after they reach a certain age. But why? Why would men want to play with these games and not women?
Bless the BBC for investigating such random questions that plague my mind. According to a recent article by them , women do like to play video games, and the typical female gamer in England is between the ages of 30 and 35.
So why are American women ignored by this industry that we love to feed? That might have to do with who makes these games. Yes, there is a school for video game making: The Guildhall at SMU. Current female enrollment at the school: 2. In fact, less than 10 percent of all game developers are women, according to Peter Raad, the school’s executive director.
But things are looking up. The first Women’s Game Conference was held in Austin two weeks ago. And Guildhall is now co-offering an $18,500 scholarship (or half the cost of the 18-month certification program) for women interested in creating video games.
So if you’re a woman who has an itch to shake this industry, this is the time. Just let me know when I should be on the lookout for your new game.
For more information on the gaming industry, check out these articles:
· “Cell Phone Games”
September 21, 2004
The Fast Walker
The whole work/office/corporate existence can be a bit Seinfeldian at times. If you’re lucky enough to have a close friend at the office, you inevitably end up having ongoing inside jokes about the woman in the next cube over who always overprojects while talking about distinctly nonwork-related issues on the phone, or the way that one manager always gets those beads of sweat on his upper lip or the fact that the new lady in your department eats Wasabi peas for lunch every single day.
I recently became fixated on one such Seinfeldian trait of someone here at our office. This guy -- I’d put him in his early 30s -- started here a few months ago. Truthfully, I didn’t know much about him at all. I didn’t know his background, his role here, his personal history, anything other than what he looked like and this one fact: He is the fastest walker I’ve ever seen. w
I don’t know how you describe with words how fast someone walks, but believe me, he’s a fast walker. Last week, I happened to spot him out in the parking lot. He was probably 30 feet in front of me, walking in the same direction as me out towards our far-off automobiles. I decided I would try to gain ground on him -- with the only rule being I wasn’t allowed to run. Now the thing is, I must be close to six inches taller than this guy, so you’d think this wouldn’t be all that hard. I kicked it up to second gear and tried to close the gap between us. I was still falling farther behind. I kicked it up another notch -- trying to cling on to my self-imposed no-running rule -- and I swear, he just kept stretching out his lead on me. on me. Now what’s remarkable is that he had no idea we were ever having this fast-walking competition. He was just doing his normal fast-walking thing. And I -- trying my darnedest -- couldn’t gain an inch on him.
Now, I’d have to categorize myself as an “ambler” or perhaps a “saunterer.” I’m no speed walker, for sure. But I wondered, can you tell things about somebody’s personality by how they walk? Are fast walkers somehow different -- maybe somehow superior -- to saunterers? Why would anyone want to walk that fast all the time?
Clearly, this fascination with the fast walker was a bit strange and unhealthy. I figured it was time to embrace my obsession and get to know what the fast walker was all about. I decided I would interview him.
I emailed the fast walker, and in a somewhat cryptic way, asked if I could set up 15 minutes to talk to him. He responded in the affirmative promptly. Turns out the fast walker is a pretty fast emailer as well. We agreed to meet Friday morning at 10.
Now, one thing that needs to be explained about Monster is that when a meeting is scheduled for 10, you can rest assured that it won’t start until at least 10 past 10. It’s just a given that meetings absolutely do not, under any circumstances, start on time. In fact, arriving at a meeting on time more or less assures that you will lose the time that could be used if you stayed at your desk for an additional 10 minutes. But given that I’d never dealt with the fast walker before and that he’s only been at the company for a few months and might not have fully adhered to the always-at-least-10-minutes-late-to-all-meetings rule yet, I decided to show up at 10 on the dot.
When I got to our meeting place, he was waiting. Mind you, this means he arrived at our meeting before the actual meeting time. Indeed, it was starting to look like there was something very different about the fast-walking sort.
I’ve got to confess: I was expecting fast walker to be intense and a bit brusque. I was figuring he might end up a bit on the annoyed side that I asked him to take time from his day so that I could interview him, all because I was intrigued by his accelerated walking habits.
But I was pleasantly surprised by the fast walker. Turns out, he’s a totally friendly guy. And while I expected to find him a bit humorless, he ended up having a funny streak. He, in fact, described himself as “intense but funny underneath it.”
But other than that, he more or less matched up to my expectations of what a fast walker might be like. He was a double major in German and economics at Ivy League Dartmouth, and he just recently received his MBA at none other than Harvard.
When I asked him whether he was Type A or Type B, he said Type A, but then went on to give me a brief dissertation on the history and shortcomings of the Type A/Type B personality test. He said that on a scale from 1 to 10, he’s an 8 on the ambition scale. He also said he has a tendency to be a bit on the blunt side when interacting with people. And he openly admitted to being a nervous type. Oh yeah, and he was a management consultant at one point in his career.
In other words, it turns out that if you’re judging people by silly things like how fast they walk, you may well be on the money.
September 20, 2004
I Don’t Like Mondays
Actually, I do like Mondays -- usually. Just not when I wake up at 4 a.m., like I did this morning.
My cranky Monday morning actually began around 9 o’clock last night. I was in front of the TV, tuning into the Emmys and paying bills, when the power went out. About a minute later it came back on, and then went out again. I had to crawl up the stairs in the dark to locate a flashlight. After we realized we couldn’t get any of our radios to work (despite our attempts with a number of brand-new batteries), we went outside and talked to our neighbor for a bit. Since our street appeared to be the only one affected, it seemed like the only sensible thing to do was set the alarms on our cell phones and go to bed.
My husband woke for work around 3:30 a.m., and since I had already slept for more than five hours, I couldn’t get back to sleep after being disturbed by his stirrings. As long as I was up, I figured I’d start my day. I ignored my puffy eyes, showered and came into work. And now I just can’t shake that sleepiness. I spilled coffee on my white shirt on the way into work -- twice. And now I’m just trying to get through the day.
It’s on Mondays like this when that ditty from the Boomtown Rats seems particularly fitting.
September 17, 2004
Sunday: The Unofficial First Workday?
Ah, it’s almost time for the weekend. As you hash out your weekend plans, do you find yourself slacking at work on Friday afternoon? And if so, when do you find yourself making up for that lost time? For many of us, Sunday seems like the new unofficial workday.
Let’s face it: Our lives don’t always follow the business-hours protocol. So is it only fair that we give up a little of our designated free time to make up for the moments that we can’t give our all at work? In a recent article by the Boston Globe, correspondent Angela Lin speaks of her Sunday evening work ritual, suggesting that the weekend day is a good time to get work done.
I feel that if you are trying to make up for time lost, Sunday evening may be a good outlet - especially as it will mentally prepare you for the “official” workweek. But if you’re work-life balance scale is already favoring work, putting in that extra time in on what can otherwise be a relaxing evening can end up burning you out before the week even starts. What’s your Sunday night ritual?
Have a good weekend, everyone.