Greg Henley is a great friend of mine and an incredible writer. I’m so grateful for this amazing post on the pitfalls of our modern office environment – he’s asking an incredibly poignant question. After reading this post, but sure to check out his own blog, Thought Dump, for more insightful articles about life as a young professional.
If you follow Wayfaring Sarah’s blog, you may remember she wrote a post about WWOOFing a little while ago. It’s an awesome post, and she wrote something here that’s stuck with me:
“It’s always been alarming how detached we are from our primal selves. We didn’t evolve to … spend our evenings in front of glaring screens. I always wonder whether, if civilization collapsed, how many of us would actually have the skills and knowledge to survive.”
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll know you usually spend the bulk of your day in front of one of those glaring screens. This can be terrible for your health, an unproductive way of approaching your workload and make trivial things seem more important than they need to be.
All of this makes me wonder if the ‘office job’ is humanity’s worst idea ever.
Working in an office can damage your health
Let’s start with how sitting in front of a screen for eight or more hours a day can damage your health. In any office you’ve ever worked in, you probably had to complete some kind of health and safety training when you started working there.
This talks you through things like how to adjust and sit in your chair, how far your eyes should be from your screen and how to position your arms. All of which screams human beings should not be spending too much of their time in offices.
There are loads of other health problems office work can lead to, like repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, poor eyesight, weight gain and depression.
I know working in offices has screwed my eyesight over the last couple of years. I’m short-sighted, and I used to only have to wear glasses when looking at distant objects. But now I need them for looking at computer screens too – making me sh*t-sighted.
The eight-hour day is an unproductive way of working
The eight-hour workday seems to have changed into the twelve plus-hour workday. Everyone’s working longer hours than they’re supposed to in order to get things done, and skipping their lunch breaks to work even more.
Working to tight deadlines can mean extra dedication is needed. But spending all of your time in front of your screen is not the most productive way to do your job.
One psychologist believes the best time to do demanding work is within the first three hours of waking up. In this time, you have more willpower and are less likely to get held up over decision-making. You just do things. As the day goes on, the reverse happens.
Ever been completely wiped out by 3:30 p.m.? I have, and this offers an explanation as to why that happens.
Trivial things can become more important than they need to be
In her WWOOFing post, Sarah also said:
“It’s no exaggeration to claim that, as a planet, we have a severe connectivity issue. We’re so chronically stuck to our screens that very often we forget to stop and take a look around.”
Smart phones with email and social media apps have allowed work to follow us even after leaving the office for the day. You can end up checking your emails at the dinner table, or finding out about your company’s updates on holidays. You’re supposed to spend this time enjoying yourself, and work is becoming a priority over friends and family.
Sometimes, I think it’s only office workers who give a sh*t about how many LinkedIn connections they have. Outside of the workplace, this doesn’t matter.
How to save your health, be more productive and focus on what matters
I have some ideas for getting around the issues of office work. They may seem obvious, but I think they’re easy to forget.
- Take your breaks. If your contract says you’re entitled to a 60-miunte lunch break, take it. Go outside. If it’s raining, go to another building. Get away from your office. Turn your eyes away from your screen every so often. Get up and make everyone a drink, even if you don’t want one.
- Get your most intense work done in the early part of your day. The more your day goes on, the less willpower you have. Identify what’s most important and work on this first. Leave the stuff that requires less energy until later.
- Remove social media and email apps from your phone. Make work stay at work, and let your friends and family come first when you’re not here.
While it’s clear that office work is not in our best interest as humans, it’s obviously something that isn’t going away any time soon. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce it’s effect. Add a bit of mindfulness to the way you work and you’ll soon see the benefit.