Tag: productivity

PETS IN THE OFFICE: A DOGGY DO (OH DEAR) OR A DOGGY DON’T?

dogs-at-work

This is a subject that has been debated in the office at Open Comms for many years. Should we allow pets into the office or is it that one step too far, especially when you take into account that we host client meetings at Nostell and not everyone is a lover of our four-legged friends.

There have been many arguments both for and against but I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve always been the one that put my foot down and said no! Absolutely not.

In all fairness, I couldn’t get past the thought of dog slobber on a client’s designer suit or the smell of wet fur and Febreeze. There was just something that always made it a black and white decision for me – and it wasn’t in favour of the canine kind.

A new arrival

Then something happened. It was life changing. I hadn’t expected it and I wasn’t prepared for it. We got a dog. A puppy. A cocker spaniel to be precise, full of life and a bundle of bouncing energy.

I won’t lie, this new development took some getting used to. It was in my house, it was chewing things and padding through the kitchen with mucky feet! It even tried to eat my shoes and made a valiant attempt at destroying the garden – eating the heads off my favourite flowers one by one with a smirk across his cheeky chops.

But, oh, those eyes!

I never thought it would happen, but Duke Davies, the loveable pooch that happily howls his heart out at 5.30am each morning to remind us that it’s time for walkies has made his mark. There’s no going back and that is when I realised that I would have to face my first real personal battle about this bundle of (exhausting) joy.

Decision time

As holiday season approached there would be one week where there was no one to look after Duke during the day. There was only one real option. I would have to bring him to work. The horror as I realised that I had been the one for years – six years to be precise – that had always put a stop to office pets and now I was going to have to go, tail between my legs, and hope that my colleagues wouldn’t be as defensive about the doggy as I had been.

Thankfully they all welcomed him with open arms. In all honesty, he didn’t do much beyond sitting in the corner and sleeping, he is a pup after all. The occasional passing stroke and the trundles we had around Nostell Priory Estate Yard, meeting with other walkers that were enjoying the sunshine, kept him suitably amused.

The benefits of doing things differently

Beyond the practical though, having Duke in the office taught me a real lesson. Not least to stop being such a miserable cow but also to consider the benefits to doing things differently. I’d never given the office pet thing any real thought, but now I could see how five minutes with a distraction can be such a positive.

Going out for twenty minutes and leaving my desk to walk Duke twice a day gave me the shocking clarity I needed that it’s not a weakness to stand up and move away from my desk during the day and no one will criticise my work ethic for taking some time to clear my head.

Far from being the distraction I expected, Duke was a calming presence. I’d look down and he’d look up, big brown eyes and fluffy ears. What was there not to love, and as for the smell, I don’t think anyone really noticed – unless I’ve gone nose blind?  

A change of position

I can now see the benefits to having a pet in the office and that includes the giggles when they have a mad minute. I never thought that watching a dog run around as fast as his little legs could carry him or the cheeky bark he gave the postman (he nearly jumped out of his skin!) would have me chuckling behind my computer screen, but it did.

For those of you that are contemplating getting a pet for the office then there are a few things that you need to think about; who’s going to do the cleaning up, who takes ultimate responsibility and what are you going to do when clients visit. There’s also allergies to consider, you don’t want someone coming out in a rash! But…

It is worth considering the benefits too. There’s lots of research that suggests that having a pet in the office is therapeutic and can encourage a calmer working atmosphere and environment, while also improving productivity. Who knew?

Duke hasn’t become a permanent fixture in our office and he never will, I still have some reservations about a full-time position for him, but I would bring him again for a day or two, we just need to work on his telephone manner.

What you really achieve during a 16-hour working day

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It seems to have become a bit of a trend over recent years, where people make a point of letting you know just how many hours they have worked. It’s no longer considered acceptable to get into the office at 9am and work to 5.30pm, if you don’t work until your mind is whirring and your eyes are burning you simply aren’t committed.

I have to admit that before the Christmas break I had got into the habit of coming into the office at 7.30am and working through to around 6pm every day, thinking that this was reflective of my desire to do a good job for my clients. WRONG!

Most of my clients were still in bed, and although I do still get into the office earlier than my contracted 9am start, it is for the right reasons – usually to read the news and to prioritise my tasks for the day ahead.

While reading the i today I came across a really interesting article written by Katie Law, which further reinforced my fear that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily make you more productive. In fact, quite the opposite.

The piece, titled ‘How to do a full day’s work in only four hours’ (no surprises for why it caught my attention) places the emphasis on efficiency as opposed to the hours that we spend doing stuff. The main message, which was taken from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a 52-year old former Silicon Valley consultant and lifestyle expert, was that most people can only focus for four hours each day.

If that’ the case, why are we trying to drag this out to eight or more and commending people for it? Basically, we are rewarding inefficiency or at least giving someone who should be recruiting the kudos to believe they are super-human.

In order to be as effective as you can be, the idea is that you work to your limits and that we try to change the mindset that we have all created; longer and longer hours translates to commitment and results.

What started as a desire to do well suddenly manifests itself as a route to ill-health, tiredness, inefficiency and resentment.

But, here’s the good news, there are ways to change. The tips from the article are as follows:

1.       Four hours focus

Focus on tasks and don’t be distracted by emails, voicemails or unnecessary meetings.  Interestingly, it suggests Smartphones should be turned off at least two-nights a week.

2.       Curse of the open-plan office

We have an open plan office, and whereas it definitely has its benefits, the article makes a good point – it’s a honey pot of distractions. The recommendation is to use headphones to cancel out the noise and chatter or go back to individual offices *gasp*.

3.       Break-out areas are bad

Although breaks are confirmed as being a good thing, the idea of having a break-out area doesn’t serve its purpose. Rather than giving people the time to refocus, the article says that all they do is keep people in the office for longer.

4.       Keep meetings short

Pang says that meetings should never be longer than 40 minutes and any devices should be banned! I could marry this man. One thing that irks me above all others is people taking phones or laptops into meetings. It’s rude. As far as I’m concerned, we should go into a meeting, get to the point, create a plan, assign actions and get on with it. Perfect.

5.       Routine is critical

Probably my favourite of them all, and not easily achieved in PR, but routine keeps the mind focused and allows someone to be more organised. Needless to say, this means that you also use your time more wisely.

6.       Take a nap

I love this idea but it’s totally impractical. Apparently, companies including Google have nap pods and encourage employees to take 20-minute shut-eye every six hours. Bonkers, but hey, you can’t fault a multi-million corporation for trying something different. I’m all for a bit of disruption – in fact, I might go for a lie down. Zzzzzzz…

7.       Stop working mid-sentence

Finally, neuroscientists have found that when people stop working on something knowing that they will go back to it, their subconscious keeps processing it. As such, the idea is to embrace this and ‘zone out’. Let your mind do the work for you.

Although I don’t agree with all of the points made by Pang, I am going to try and put more routine into the way I work and to stop believing that working 16-hour days makes me a better and more productive person.

The truth is that no one will thank me, least of all the husband that I never see.