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Office Survival Tip: Utilizing Lunch Breaks

21 Feb

Office Survival Tip: Utilizing Lunch Breaks          

The office lunch break is one of the most underutilized benefits an office worker has. Usually ranging in length from 30 minutes to an hour, it is the one part of your work day when you are legitimately allowed to not do cube-work.

Now, some of you may say that your miserable boss and/or work environment expects you to work through lunch. This may be true, but expectations don’t equal rules and regulations. However, if you want to travel down that logical rabbit hole, then OSHA doesn’t expect you to work through lunch. I believe in the world of corporate rock-paper-scissors, OSHA creams middle management.

Now that we’ve gotten past everyone’s reservations about not working through lunch, let’s return to the awesome opportunity that can be our daily lunch break. In order for a lunch break to be awesome it should provide an engaging mental, social, or physical escape from your office or cubicle. I’m actually a fan of those work/life improvement sites that encourage taking lunch breaks, I just think they give really crappy ideas for how to utilize your lunch break. So here are mine!

Some awesome examples of lunch break utilization may include: any impromptu team competition, any personal work you deem more important than cubicle work, any social get-together that results in laughter, or anything that could be paralleled to your childhood recess.

Some not-so-awesome examples of lunch break utilization include: Browsing any crappy news site (by crappy news site I mean something along the lines of Oprah or MensHealth.com), checking your Facebook, railing against the man, or staring longingly out the window.

Lately, when weather permits, I’ve been using my lunch breaks to throw a football with some co-workers in our parking lot. We go by the Honeybadgers, in lieu of the Cake Eaters (apparently YouTube jokes are more popular than Marie Antoinette jokes). So far there are only three of us, but I’m naively optimistic that soon our fellow cube-dwellers will notice our pint-sized football league and come traipsing out of their cubes to join us. In fact, my dream would be to provide a massive corporate playground for lunch-break enjoyment. I think it would improve a lot of issues revolving around tiredness, grumpiness, and sedentariness. Vote Sharkables for your local lunch break representative!

Office Survival Tip: Recovering From a Long, Unplanned Abscence

17 Feb

Office Survival Tip: Recovering From a Long, Unplanned Absence

The best way to recover from a long, unplanned absence from work, life, or blogging is to briefly explain yourself to your boss/significant others/readers, let them know when things’ll be back to normal, and then continue on as though nothing happened.

My absence was partially due to non-blog related issues, and mostly due to a work/life/blog/art/chores/family balance that needed to be worked out. But Sharkables should be back to normal sometime next week (complete with illustrations!).

As some of you may have noticed, I attempted to remodel my homepage this morning. As some of you may also have noticed, my remodeling skills are close to nil. Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t seem to have a “Revert to previous, superior design” button, so whoopsie. Sorry to my resident blog designer for leaving a path of blog design destruction in my wake. Sorry to my readers for having to deal with a confusing and visually unappetizing layout. Well actually, it should probably be more like sorry for my laziness, because I’m not motivated enough to actually go and fix said crappy layout right now.

Anywho, I have some exciting new ideas for Sharkables. These exciting new ideas were the main impetus for attempting said blog redesign. So thank you brain for your charming mix of creative ideas paired with lack of follow-through.

Exciting Idea Number 1: I plan to start writing Sharkables again, which I think is an excellent move in the right direction, although I will probably slow down my posts to only 1 per week.

Exciting Idea Number 2: I’d like to start offering limited runs of signed, numbered (and potentially framed!) prints of my Sharkables illustrations on high-quality cardstock. I’m interested in seeing if anyone is interested in having an exclusive piece of Sharkable memorabilia for their displaying pleasure. I hear they make excellent gifts for obscure holidays (Boss’s day, eh?) and retirement parties. They can also really snazz up a bland looking cubicle or home office! The amount of interest I get will set my prices and print length. I’m thinking $50 per signed, numbered print, and limiting to 10 prints per illustration. And once their gone their gone for that illustration. Of course I’m always open to suggestions! Too high, too low, more/fewer prints, etc. I’m interested in hearing anyone’s ideas. I’ll be following up with another page giving the “deets” (cool speak for details) in the future. I also had the exciting idea for a calendar, but I may have to wait another 10 months for that opportunity to roll around again.

Exciting Idea Number 3: In related news, I’m posting a link to my Personal Art website BostWork.com. I’ve been keeping the two separate, but sometimes I get cross inquiries about my blog and my online portfolio. In addition to drawing shark cartoons, I also paint and do other semi-artsy things. Besides, you can go there and see the original illustrations that inspired my blog, which is potentially entertaining.

So thanks everyone for your patience. And on a brighter note I have an exciting new post planned for next week on lunch breaks! Exciting!

Office Survival Tip: Fire Drills

9 Jan

Office Survival Tip: Fire Drills

For starters, just to clarify, this is not figurative fire drill I’m talking about. Not the “fire drill” where some idea floats through your bosses head that a particular project/deadline/favor to the VP is of Utmost Importance and everyone must drop everything to assist in getting it done?

No, I’m talking about the real fire drills here. The ones where you’re sitting quietly at your desk widgeting, when your reality is suddenly shattered by the repeated eardrum implosion that is the office fire alarm. I’m not sure why fire alarms are about 50 decibels above the appropriate alarm sound level for an office, but they are. For the amount of noise that fire alarm puts out, you’d think cubical patches were spaced intermittently around heavy machinery and factory shop floors.

Regardless,though your animal instinct may interpret the meteoric screeching of the fire alarm as a sign to panic, its important to keep your head and don’t panic. If you happen to work in or near a factory (thereby quashing my previous dig at alarm decibels, thanks), now is an appropriate time for your earplugs. If you don’t, wadded up bits of paper or kleenex are passable substitutions. I only say this because If you’re not situated immeidiately beside an emergency exit, chances are you’re going to be in that building for a minute.

I believe this is due to people putting a little too much emphasis on the word “calmly” in the instructions  “don’t panic and proceed calmly to your nearest emergency exit”.

I would like to make a point here, that “calmly” does not necessarily equate to “walking as slowly as possible” . In fact, in case of a real fire this would probably be incredibly un-beneficial. No, “calmly” merely means don’t go screaming and flailing down the hallway, knocking people down to escape the flames and/or eardrum implosion. I promise its not an oxymoron.  You can still walk quickly and be calm.

Of course this is compounded by the issue that despite the “emergency” part of “emergency exit” there’s only one or two in a building, regardless of how many floors or how spread out it might be. I believe my expert grasp of Supply Chain terminology would describe this as an “emergency bottleneck”.

And if your office happens to have a turnstile, I’m sorry. There’s not much you can now do but grit your teeth and try not to let the death siren drive you to rash actions like driving your pen into the deltoid of the man waiting in line ahead of you.

Aside

Office Survival Tip: Dealing with the Thermostat

3 Jan

Office Survival Tip: Dealing with the Thermostat

That title may be a tad deceiving. When reading it, you should regard the word “Dealing” as more like “enduring the almost unbearable conditions brought on by the thermostat regulator” than “dealing with the responsibility of handling the office thermostat”. Unless you ARE the person who regulates the thermostat, then lucky you! I doubt it though. I always imagined the thermostat being overseen by some BigWig at the very top of the building, where all the heat rises so he always feels the need to make it colder. The VP of Climate Control probably.

Anyways, office seasons aren’t like outdoorsy seasons, in that instead of natural cycles of progressing warmth and cold as we move from winter to summer and back again, office temperatures remain at a steady, uncomfortable state marked by brief, biannual periods of intense discomfort when changing of the seasons require a switch between A/C and heat.

Therefore to survive in this strange, homeostatic environment we must first take note of the specifics of its temperature. It’s important to not be deceived into believing the outside weather bears any real influence on the indoor climate. Just because you have to start wearing sweaters outside in November doesn’t mean they’re any help whatsoever inside in November. Therefore, surviving the office thermostat really just involves coming to terms with whatever temperature zone the VP of Climate Control has designated shall reign for eternity, and then preparing for it daily.

This can be done in many ways. If your office is too cold, stash an outer layer at your desk . Feel free to swap it out an any time though. This will ensure that your clothing gets washed and you don’t become “that guy who always wears the Outdoor World jacket”.

If your office is too hot…I don’t know, I’ve never encountered this one. Maybe drink lots of iced tea. Emphasis on the iced. Or get one of those cheap-o spritzy fans. You know, the ones they sell at Disney World on excruciatingly hot days for $20 because you’re desperate and it has a picture of Tinkerbelle on it.

Also, layers can be helpful in both instances, either for putting on or removing. Try not to go too far in either case though.

Office Survival Tip: Window Gazing

19 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Window Gazing

Never do something stupid outside an office building.

You know that eerie feeling you get sometimes that someone’s watching you? In my opinion, you get that feeling because someone IS watching you. Next time you get all creeped out, look around and see if there are any office buildings nearby. If so, you’re spidey sense is probably spot-on. Depending on the size of the office building, you could have multiple someone’s on multiple floors scoping you out. And if you’re tangled up in any kind of embarrassing moment, you could even have clusters of someone’s congregating and commenting on your situation. Feel self-conscious yet?

On the flip side of the coin, a good window gazing can be a great way to beat the office doldrums. It’s kind of like bird watching, only instead of searching for birds, you look for anything even remotely interesting. Also like bird watching, it get’s dull fast if you don’t have goals (I assume here. I can’t say I’ve ever even a remote inclination to bird-watch.)

Here’s three fairly universal goals to help you get started. You can add more appropriate or entertaining window gazing goals according to your specific window’s characteristics.

Check one off whenever you see:

-Anyone engaged in any kind of heated dispute on their cell phone. This can be especially entertaining if they’re a dramatic gesture-er.

-During storms, any brave, desperate soul who bursts from the lobby in a mad, awkward, umbrella-less dash to his car. (Bonus if they get to their car and realize they didn’t pull their keys out first, and then bumble around in their briefcase in the pouring rain searching for them.)

-Anyone with unusual/extreme car trouble. For instance, we saw someone this week rip the front bumper half-way off their car by pulling out of their parking spot. (Bonus if they make things worse due to their own ineptness. For instance, after ripping the bumper half-way off their car, they attempted to save face and drive away, thereby fully ripping the bumper off their car)

Because window gazing can be such effective boredom relief, any office or cube with a window vantage point is prime real estate. My first cube was a single with a view of the window. It ruined me forever.

Office Survival Tip: Donut Etiquette

14 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Donut Etiquette

Nohing turns around a bad morning like the gift of donuts. That presentation you’re about to give on your failing project seems a lot less like a slow descent into the inner circles of hell when you’ve got a piping hot glazed halo of joy in your hand. Well, unless you’re on a diet, then donuts are a lose/lose situation, rife with guilt daggers. Take one, spoil your diet and wallow in the ensuing guilt; or refuse the donut and be the victim of your co-workers guilt tactics for not joining them in their donut-gasm.

If your office is gifted with a donut bounty and you decide to partake, be sure to follow correct donut etiquette.

Such as, never leave a partial donut. Chopping it into halves or quarters or whatever your mental diet-approved size is can be viewed as particularly annoying by anyone without the same donut serving size reference. It also brings up awkward questions like: is there something wrong with that particular donut half? Did she break that off with her hands? Should I take a half a donut too? What if I took two different halves to make a super donut? See. You don’t want to subject anyone to that mental can of worms. Either commit to the donut, or don’t. No matter what size the serving, you’re still popping a sugar and lard encrusted pastry into your mouth, which probably goes against whatever health kick you may be on anyways. So just accept and enjoy it for what it is.

Also, don’t be too greedy with the number of donuts you partake of (unless you were the Bringer of Donuts, then you may eat from the donut box to your heart’s content, you benevolent soul). One is expected. Two is allowed if there are extras. Three is greedy. Besides, the more times you return to the donut box, the more likely you are to become embroiled in the tricky situation known as a Mexican donut stand-off.

A Mexican donut stand-off occurs when two people approach the last donut in the donut box at the exact same time, thereby causing much awkwardness as they try to determine who gets said donut in a politically correct manner.

If you find yourself caught in a Mexican donut stand-off, the trick is to offer the other party the donut first. To immediately grab for the donut would be rude and against donut etiquette. If they are a true donut sportsman, the other party will return your offer with their own for you to have the last donut. You can then accept and claim your prize. This is the only way to get the last donut without looking like an ass. If  you offer up the donut and they take it immediately, well, then you know they’re not a true donut sportsman and should be avoided during Donut Wednesdays from here on out.

Office Survival Tip: Doodling

12 Dec

As my laptop is currently in a state of non-animation, I bring you MS Paint-ables! I hope you enjoy this MS Paint monstrosity in lieu of the normal illustrations while I continue to come to terms with the idea of replacing my no-longer-trusty computer friend.

Office Survival Tip: Doodling

Part of office life is dealing with long, intermittent bouts of tedium. These can arise in the forms of meetings, telecoms, or waiting after hours for your boss/customer/supplier to call/email/fax you something of dubious importance. There are several ways to deal with these bouts of mind-famine. Sorting paperclips, shuffling papers, doodling, and playing Klondike on your BlackBerry are all viable options. Or you can focus on the feeling of your soul slowly being sucked dry by your speckled beige cubicle walls. Out of all of these enthralling options my favorite is doodling.

The best part about doodling is that you don’t have to be particularly skilled to do it. It’s like the drawing equivalent of dancing in front of your closet mirror in your underwear, only you can do it during meetings. How liberating! Just kind of let your mind go and let your pen do what it wants. If it only wants to do rudimentary squiggles at first, it’s cool, you can pass them off as snakes or worms. Stick with it! Soon enough you’ll progress to wonky circles and lopsided stars. Keep moving forward, and eventually, if you’re lucky, anthropomorphic sharks.

Your boss may not appreciate your new-found meeting hobby, but don’t let it get you down. True genius is rarely fully realized at the time of its creation. If you still feel the need to justify your budding talent to your boss, I think I heard a statistic once that Doodlers actually pay more attention when they’re allowed to doodle freely. As a Doodler I feel this statistic may be complete horse-crap, but I guess I do pay a lot more attention to the paper in front of me when I’m doodling on it. So throw it out there and say the study was backed up by lots of scientific research and published in an academic journal. I’m sure it probably was.

Who knows, maybe your PowerPoint slide doodles will somehow stir your creative muse and inspire you to start blogging or something.

 

Office Survival Tip: Kitchenette Microwave Etiquitte

5 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Kitchenette Microwave Etiquitte

Oh the office kitchenette microwave. Standing alone on the edge of the counter, splattered with a thin layer of encrusted chili; it’s usually roughly 20 years old and possibly missing several buttons. It’s a sorry-looking thing, but if you want a warm lunch it’s the best you’ve got. Those 20 Lean Cuisines in the freezer aren’t going to heat themselves.

Despite its decrepit appearance, the kitchenette microwave should be treated with some measure of respect. Mainly because you’re sharing it with a large number of other people and you have that whole Golden Rule thing to consider. Also, if you inadvertently destroy it, it could be replaced by something in an even worse state of decay, or God forbid, a toaster oven.

So please take some time to familiarize yourself with proper kitchenette microwave etiquette.

Heating any of the following items could be considered poor microwave etiquette:
-any explosive item in an improperly sealed Tupperware
-fish (this an include: leftover salmon, tuna, tuna casserole, and even fish sticks)
-Any kind of Hot Pocket (they make the whole kitchenette smell like a 7-eleven)
-Indian food, leftover Chinese, or anything with the power to stink up an entire building floor when heated

As with anything communal, the kitchenette microwave get used very frequently and cleaned very rarely. So consider that next time you decide to nuke one of your bowls of exploding chili.

It’s also in bad taste if you use the kitchenette microwave to make anything involving more than one step or two microwave cycles. The microwave is a limited resource which you must share with a significant number of hungry people. Hungry people are generally not known for their patience and benevolence, so don’t be surprised if you get the stink-eye during step 5 of your Easy Microwave Ravioli Casserole.  The office kitchenette is not the place to bring out your inner Chef Wolfgang Puck (your inner Chef Boyardee, maybe).

If you choose not to follow the above rules, you may incur the wrath of the Kitchenette Nazi, who will hang large, colorful signs outlining the microwave rules as punishment for your sins. So please don’t subject your everyone else to a barrage of passive-aggressive microwave instructions due to your general ineptness.

Office Survival Tip: Setting Priorities

2 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Setting Priorities

Usually people set their work priorities according to whatever they think their job requirements entail. Unless you’re an Under Achiever; then your priorities follow whatever your current whim is (napping, crosswording, drawing cartoons of your coworkers as sharks, etc). 

Everyone is going to have a different idea of what your priorities should be. That’s because everyone believes your priorities should support their own priorities. Which is rubbish. Unless they’re your boss. Then it’s reality.

This will probably lead you to do some very unproductive things. Like spending inordinate amounts of time jazzing up PowerPoint presentations, or regularly condensing everything you’re working on into short, easy to understand sentences so your boss can reiterate it to his higher ups. 

This is a reality of Office Life: your bosses priorities > your perceived job priorities

I say perceived job priorities because any outstanding boss will tell you his priorities ARE your priorities, you just haven’t perceived them that way yet. I know this is getting a little heavy but bear with me. 

If you think about it, your perceived job description probably includes all kinds of inane, pointless tasks. Therefore, when you align your priorities with your boss’s priorities, it’s really just a matter of swapping one stupid task with another.  So! Next time your boss asks you to create a color coded map of the empty cubicles in your office, just smile, accept it, and remind him that means you probably won’t get to sorting your supplier location list by degrees of longitude this week.

Author’s Note: I really struggled with this illustration because part of me vaguely remembers, in the back of my mind, that sharks might not have eyelids. Therefore I had a very hard time drawing one napping with his beady little eyes closed. I tried it with his eyes open, but it just didn’t give off “sleep” vibes (even when I added Zzzz’s). Originally I was going to post the picture and hope no one called me out, but my neurosis got the best of me and I had to say something. The whole thing is silly though, I don’t know why my sharks having eyelids bothers me but them walking around wearing little office shirts is perfectly acceptable.

Office Survival Tip: Technical Difficulties

30 Nov

Office Survival Tip: Technical Difficulties

Technical difficulties are the bain of inept electronic users everywhere. They can occur at any time, but are most likely to rear their ugly heads 6.5 minutes before something important is due. This gives you just enough time to panic, but not quite enough to actually do anything constructive about it.

When faced with a technical difficulty, there are several options for dealing:

1.       Walk away and leave the problem for someone else to deal with. (Note: This is an effective tactic for communal electronics, like the printer. This is not an effective tactic for personal electronics, like your PC.)

2.       Plug and unplug it repeatedly until its fixed, you get tired, or the whole thing just up and dies

3.       Call Tech Support

If you got with option #3 be forewarned, the common cubicle worker and Tech Support have vastly different concepts of urgency. If it’s an “emergency” expect support sometime tomorrow. If it’s “not an emergency” expect support sometime next month. Consider this principle before calling in a support request.

And if you want to avoid technical failures happening in the first place, an effective tactic is to try not to care too much. Electronics can smell deadline panic like dogs can smell fear, and will implode if you get within a 10 foot radius with an urgent task.  Thus technical failure can occur anywhere, from your desk PC to the dreaded copier, or if you’ve amassed enough negative energy, the elevator. Of course not caring too much also has the added benefit that if your computer implodes 6.5 minutes before a deadline…you won’t care too much.