Tag Archives: Work

When Doing Butt Clenches at the Office is Not Enough

Most of us sit at a desk for more than eight hours a day, staring at a tiny monitor, writing humdrum reports, and risking carpal tunnel in our fingers. The most exercise we get is from walking… on our way to the bathroom, or to a meeting, or once in a while, to lunch. Multiply this by five (or more) days a week, and it’s amazing that we can still squeeze through the doorways. A recent article described the habits of another group with “squat, furry bodies” akin to ours:

“Pandas have been ridiculed for their decidedly non-bearlike vegetarian diets, their apparent lack of interest in — and aptitude for — sex, their tendency to spend the majority of their time sitting, eating, scratching, and defecating (about 40 times per day) — even for being, shall we say, plump.”from MSNBC

While our nation’s best politicians have shown that humans do not lack interest in sex (where is Eliot Spitzer these days?), we seem to be more like pandas than ever before. The growing incidence of obesity in the world has reached over 300 million people worldwide. About 1 in 6 humans globally are considered overweight, and this ratio is even higher in industrialized countries. Indeed, perhaps much of this can be attributed to our workplace routine, where most of our days revolve around sitting, eating, scratching, and defecating… albeit at a much lower rate.

As evidenced by FOX’s short-lived series Man vs. Beast, humans have never been able to claim physical dominance over animals. Eventually our collective obesity could deem humans as nature’s next “evolutionary mistake,” a term typically reserved for our plump panda friends. Given that the white-collar workforce is at the forefront of our nation’s expanding pants size, here are a few workplace exercises that may help ease our gravitational burden:

  • The (Silent) Scream: If you ever thought that your face looked fat in a photo, try the silent scream. By stretching your lower jaw and neck muscles, while not actually emitting any sound, you can minimally improve the girth of your face. It’s also guaranteed to make your co-workers think twice about invading your personal space.
  • Office Chair Rowing: Think about your office chair as a poor man’s Bowflex. Start with some sets of butt clenches at your desk. Then try some air rowing to gain momentum. It’s always impressive when you can make your chair move without pedaling, and it’ll tighten up that derriere as well.
  • Lunges Combined with Stapler Curls: Make every trip to the bathroom exciting; not only would lunges help build those quad muscles for tree-climbing, but working up those biceps with staplers is a great way to keep in shape. And once you get a handle on staplers, you can move on to the three-hole punch, coffee pots, and perhaps even reams of legal-sized paper.

Finally, just a note: we acknowledge that there are fundamental differences between humans and pandas that make such a comparison preposterous. However, pandas are cute, hard-working, and relatable. If their impending extinction doesn’t make us start thinking about our own love handles and sedentary lifestyle, then what will? So for all of us, the plight of our chubby panda pals can give us a directive: either get on the can 40 times a day, or start doing some lunges.

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Cultural Learnings of Corporate America for Make Benefit All Those Not in Corporate America

Now that I’m two years out of college, I want to share some of my learnings from the glorious nation of corporate America.

With respect to my career, I have learned:

  • flamesThat in case of a fire emergency, my entire office building would burn down with everyone still inside…  But at least we’d be working until the very last monitor melts.
  • t-rexThat even though my boss could (hypothetically) have the management aptitude of a monkey, the social capacity of a deaf-mute hyena, and the brain of a T-Rex hopped up on acid, I would still have to answer to him/her.
  • cupcakesThat it is possible to eat an entire box of Cheerios, a pound of grapes, a cookie ice cream sandwich, plus four cupcakes, all in a day’s work.  As a snack.
  • bigwomanThat it only takes one time before you’re known as “that” guy, or “that” girl.  Trust me, you don’t want to be “the girl who eats meatballs for breakfast”, or “the girl who eats four cupcakes as a snack”.  Not that I know from personal experience…but I’m just sayin’.
  • circusThat sometimes you have to stick it out in your crappy job, because it’s a recession and some career dreams (eg. circus journalist) are just unrealistic.  And yes, in this economy, the unrealistic part is more “journalist” than “circus”.  So, if you know of any openings in the circus… hit me up.

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Technically, I’m a Millionaire… Except Not Really

According to a 2006 Salary.com survey, the average worker wastes about 2 hours per day doing something other than their jobs.  Activities cited include surfing the internet, socializing with co-workers, running errands outside the office, and “spacing out”.  So, on an average 8 hour work day, 25% (or more, if you include lunch) is spent wasting your employer’s money. 

Given how much we like math, we decided to do some calculations.  For example, let’s say you work 12-hour days, but you spend 2 hours checking Facebook, paying your bills online, and reading this blog.  If you’re paid $60,000 annually, you can multiply those 2 hours by your hourly rate.  This is how much your employer pays you to sit around and discuss the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode. 

Now, economically speaking, not only do you earn your hourly rate during these two hours, but you also place value on what you’re doing instead of working.  Say your computer was broken–how much would you pay someone for the freedom to surf the Internet for an hour?  How much would you pay to have a lunch buddy, or to discuss politics with someone at the water cooler?  Imagine that you have no free time at all–how much would you pay to secure a one-hour break?  Take this rate, and multiply it by the number of hours you spend surfing the internet, socializing with co-workers, and spacing out.  This is the additional value that you get from wasting time at work.  

Traditionally, we look at our salary as the sole benefit of working.  However, we might need to adjust our thinking:

Annual Salary on Job: $60,000/Year

Salary per Work Day: $240/Day (working 50 weeks a year, 5 days a week)

Working Hours: 12 Hrs/Day

Hourly Rate: $20/Hr

Hours Spent Doing Nothing: 2 Hrs/Day

Value of Hours Spent Doing Nothing: $15/Hr (this is how much you value your wasted time at work…we assume it’s less than your hourly work rate, or else why are you working at all?)

Adjusted Value Per Work Day: $240 (salary) + $30 (value you place on your 2 hours of wasted time) = $270

Adjusted Annual Salary on Job: $67,500/Year

So, because you get paid for those two hours of doing nothing, it’s basically like free money.  And then, once you add in the intrinsic value of whatever you’re doing instead of work, you could be making much more on the job than you thought.  If you spend just half your day working, you’re really making $82,500.  If you only put in 2 solid hours of work a day (not sure what you’d be doing for the remaining 10, but that’s another question), you’re close to six figures.  Of course, there’s the risk that increasing hours-spent-doing-nothing may also increase possibility-of-getting-fired.  There’s also the fact that the extra $15 isn’t REAL money… but if you did have that extra $15 in cash, would you necessarily spend your time any differently? 

We always complain about being underpaid and overworked… But once we factor in our enjoyment from playing online Scrabble at work, our jobs might not look so bad after all. 

3 ways to increase the value of your wasted time at work:

  • Freerice.com: Feed people and learn vocab words. (High score: still trying to break 45)
  • Geography games: Go to States 6 > Explorer (center column)… I am embarassingly bad at this game.  Even after avidly following electoral maps for the past few weeks, I still placed Missouri next to Wisconsin.  (Score: 37/50, average error 147 mi, 243 seconds). 
  • Red Square game: This is not educational at all, but it does test your dexterity with a mouse.  (My record: 29.837 seconds.  It will never be broken.)

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Why Do Young People Hate Their Jobs?

Most college students I have talked to are excited about the real world after school – excited about the work, the perks, but most of all, the freedom. In the real world, there are no tests or papers looming over their heads, no professors to answer to, no dealing with the stresses and dramas that invariably accompany the college experience. Yeah, college is fun, but there’s almost a mythic quality about life beyond college: it’s substituting the sweats for suits, the kegs for martinis, the hookups for a steady, sickeningly-attractive significant other… While college seniors go through the requisite nostalgia in their last few months as an academic, this nostalgia is still often dampened by lofty expectations for the next stage in their life.

Why then, do so many young professionals hate their jobs?

(I must preface this by limiting my observations to those in the field of business. Most would-be doctors I know are happily trucking away in med school, most would-be lawyers are busily debating each other in law school, and for the rest of my graduating class—those who are doing research in Bolivia or writing articles for Mother Jones—they seem, on the most part, relatively satisfied. Then that begs the question: are jobs in the business fields overly cruel, or are those people that go into business just overly hateful? Note: This observation also excludes investment bankers, who should expect to hate their jobs even before they start.)

Some theories:

  • The College Hangover: For many young people, you’re thrown into the fire right out of school. You’re not used to waking up before noon and having to look somewhat presentable. You’re not used to being “on” all the time, every single day, at least five days a week. If only you could skip work without anyone noticing (like college lectures), and still get your big performance bonus…that would be the life. Of course, that would never happen, and thus the nostalgia for college never really goes away. However, the College Hangover only serves as a legitimate excuse for your first few months out of school… After that, if you’re still falling asleep at work in reminiscence of those college glory days, well, you should lay off the drinking.
  • The Bottom of the Totem Pole: You were a pretty big deal in college… president of some organization, captain of some sports team, leader of the beer pong circuit. Now, you’re the entry-level analyst who is seen as the little know-it-all who wants to shoot straight to the top, but in actuality is only making a contribution as a master formatter or lunch bitch. You’re relegated to modeling (thankfully we’re talking only about Excel), and making sure that someone less smart than you looks more smart than everyone else. Of course, no one is as smart as us, so it’s a tough reality to stomach.
  • Those Lofty Expectations: You thought it was going to be first-class, up in the sky, sipping champagne, living the life… Your job was supposed to be glamorous, impressive, and telling of your smarts, skills, and talents. You thought that you’d be challenged every second of the day; you would have interesting coworkers, exciting projects, and intellectual discussions. You’d be an integral part of the company, just short of the glue that holds everything together. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have interesting projects all of the time, and we certainly know a couple of coworkers who have a few screws loose. We don’t foresee the hours of administrative tasks and unrewarded legwork that is part of the daily grind. You start asking yourself why you are here, what you are doing with your life, and how you can get into a new role/company/industry that is way more glamorous than what you are in now…or so you’d like to think.
  • Too Much Freedom: When you’re young, there’s an ordered sequence of how things happen. After pre-school you go to kindergarten. After kindergarten, you’re in first grade. After first grade… etc, etc. The proverbial “life train” goes through a predictable sequence: elementary school, middle school, high school, college—from A to B. But after graduating from college, you’re alone at the train station, and only YOU have to figure out where to next. Get on the banking train, or the consulting one? Marketing, or sales? It always seems like the other train is moving faster, with nicer seats and greener grass on their side of the scenic route to your future. Anxiety strikes. Uneasiness festers. Resentment grows. You end up curled up in the corner of the caboose, hugging your knees, thinking you should have become a doctor instead… at least that would’ve delayed the decision-making for a few more years.
  • Your Job Actually Sucks: If you liked the train analogy above, then your standards for quality have obviously been lowered from your time spent on the job. Maybe all that modeling/formatting/Excel-ing is getting to your head. Or maybe your job actually sucks. Hey, it happens. Perhaps it’s time to go to business school then.

Regardless of all the reasons why many people hate their jobs, most of them are still in these jobs…so perhaps “hate” is a strong word. Only a few recent graduates I know have been so fed up that they decided to quit well-paying, respectable jobs and brave unemployment. Then, despite all the negatives, there must be some reason why we are still in the grind. Maybe it’s the money, or the benefits and perks, or the hope that things will get better. Or perhaps we are just paralyzed by fear that the next job will be worse. The main challenge is to balance the expectations of our jobs with a tempered ambition. There will always be days where unemployment looks preferable, but unless that starts to happen day-after-day, week-upon-week (meaning, Your Job Actually Sucks and you should start updating that resume), I’d say to just put your head down, put the hate aside, file it all under “Learning Experience”, and get to work.

Update (3/30/09): Why Do Young People Stay in Jobs They Hate?

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