Let's face it…desk jobs can be redundant and physically stagnant. My wife is in sales and is constantly in-and-out of offices calling on clients. She can't fathom how I manage to sit at a desk for an entire workday. She assumes that all office job positions simply sit at a desk for the entire eight-hour day. Well… that may be true at some offices, but it’s not the case in our office.
At our Inbound Marketing agency we obviously sit at our desks and use our brains and software applications to create custom marketing solutions for our clients. We put a lot of strain on our brains but not a lot of strain on our bodies. Our brains get tired from use and our bodies get sore and cramped from disuse. Tired brains and stiff, uncomfortable bodies will unquestionably decrease productivity in an individual.
Work product can be created in two primary ways: via physical capital or via human capital. Steps can be taken to increase productivity in BOTH physical capital and human capital. Let me explain...
Some businesses (like manufacturing) heavily utilize physical capital such as production equipment and machinery to produce their product. Many manufacturing plants have a summer shutdown period (usually an entire week) where the machines are serviced, cleaned, rebuilt and repaired where needed. This is done as part of a preventative maintenacne program...a program to address issues BEFORE they arise allowing the machine to run without breaking down...in turn, increasing productivity.
One great aspect about a machine is that it can perform longer than a human doing the same given task. Humans need to stop to eat, sleep, etc. Machines can perform unrestricted for longer durations where humans tire and fatigue. Yet, even machines need to be shut down and cleaned, oiled, or serviced.
Other businesses (such as professional services firms) heavily utilize human capital…their employees’ brain capacity. The brain in a professional services firm is akin to the machine in a manufacturing facility. The interactive marketing industry is driven heavily by employee creativity and strategy. Over-working the brain in one sitting can have diminishing returns seen in mediocre work product. Like a good performing machine, the human brain needs to be shut down and rested. A well-rested brain is able to focus and quickly process information with higher precision.
Have you ever stared at a work task or Excel sheet for hours and failed to make much progress?
Often time experts suggest:
1. Stepping away from the task
2. Taking a break
3. And then later revisiting the task with refreshed energy and concentration
This concept is not new and we have all heard it before. Taking this concept to a grander scale can have the exact same effect.
Have you ever spent a prolonged amount of time working on similar tasks or on one large extended project? After a few months the project can seemingly be overwhelming where appropriate next steps are no longer clear. You have been immersed in the task or project for so long that your brain has become somewhat numb or overtaken with project details.
Well…taking time away from that project (in the form of PTO) can be the exact solution needed to push the task to completion with fresh energy and focus upon return from your PTO. For the benefits of taking PTO please see another blog post of mine: Managing an Interactive Marketing Agency: 4 Tips for Administering a PTO Policy.
When your job requires you to sit at a desk for a majority of the day there are multiple ways to rest your mind when needed and exercise your body when needed. Below are 4 tips used at SyncShow to increase productivity:
1. Stare at Fish
In our office we have a 75 gallon (that’s big!) salt water fish tank. The tank is filled with colorful fish, crabs, shrimp, and corals. We often take a two-minute “mental break” and walk over to watch the fish do their thing. The quick break is helpful to rest the brain, stretch the legs and give the eyes a rest from the computer screen. Have something in your office for your employees to fixate on occasionally in order to rest their minds from a work task.
2. Rock Out
We play Salt N Peppa, the Beatles, Dave Matthews, you name it…in our office. We constantly have music playing throughout our space. The music often gets the mental juices flowing. It is amazing what good music can do to help set a work pace and void an office of complete silence. Silence, as we know, can promote fatigue. Good music also prompts the occasional office dance party…that prompts rolling on the floor in laughter…which is a good form of stretching and exercise!
3. Do the Downward Dog
The women in our office walk to a local yoga studio bi-weekly during their lunch break and perform an hour-long yoga session. They always return to work refreshed, energized and ready to attack work. Not everyone has a yoga studio in walking distance to his or her office so heck…just get outside and take a walk! The fresh air and new sights and sounds will help promote mental and physical rejuvenation.
4. Taco Tuesday
It is common in an office environment to bring lunch to work and eat lunch at your desk. In our office we often group up and do a team lunch. Getting out of the office with your co-workers accomplishes many things: you get to stretch out, you get fresh air and natural light, and you enjoy camaraderie with your peers. After team lunches we return to work happy, recharged, and ready to focus on the second half of the workday.
What to remember & implement:
Mental breaks and physical stretches help increase productivity.
Desk jobs can be mentally challenging and physically stagnant. By standing up, moving around and taking short breaks throughout the day you allow yourself to stay focused and able to complete long/large tasks. Taking occasional mental breaks can reduce eyestrain, reduce cramping in your body, and promote healthy blood flow...all supporting increased productivity.