I Can't Leave My Desk, What Can I Do?

Following my post yesterday on overcoming the leading workplace stressors, I was reminded that not everyone has the ability to get up from their desk every hour, to take time off when they are sick, to manage difficult people, to have some control over what they do or to change their work environment.

What we are talking about here are those who work in call centres, factories, warehouses, shops, and some offices. Here are a few tips for those who have a job where there may be tighter restrictions on what you can and can't do;

Breaks - Legislation dictates that you must get at least three breaks each day, use them to walk about, to stand if you have a job that requires you to sit, to go outside, and to talk with others. If you have a computer based role, look away from your screen as much as possible, stretch often, stand while working, and use any downtime to walk about even if it is simply stepping forward-and-back or side-to-side. If your job requires you to move around a lot, then rest during your breaks. Essentially, when you have a scheduled break, try to do the opposite of what you are required to do in your work.

Illness - No one can (or should) make you work when you are ill. Loyalty to your work colleagues is one thing, spreading your germs is another. On this point, there are simple things that you can do to stay healthy at work - sanitise your desk work area, wash your hands often, drink plenty of water, eat smaller meals more often, and avoid caffeine or sodas. For your mental health, personalise your workspace with one object such as a photo or small item that you can look at from time to time that reminds you of something happy.

Difficult People - If it is a colleague, avoid them wherever possible. If it is your boss, arrange a meeting with them in private and outline your concerns in this order - this is what you are doing, this is how it is viewed/received, this is what I think would be a better way for you. Do it respectfully. If you can't avoid the person who annoys you or you don't want to confront the issue, then it is up to you to change your perception of the situation. Tell yourself that what they are doing or saying is a reflection of them, not you. Don't allow their actions to annoy or frustrate you. Most of all, don't take it personally. 

Lack of Control - You have the ability to control how well you do your job. Firstly, focus on what you do well, this will give you satisfaction and momentum. Then, if you are weak in a particular area or dislike doing something then it is important that you do more of it. I call it 'confronting your fear'. Find someone who is good at what you aren't so good at and get them to help you. Lastly, make polite suggestions on how to strengthen your role – join a committee, become an employee advocate, organise social events, anything that empowers you.

Environment - Keep your workspace tidy, interact with others when possible, have a positive attitude, help others, make suggestions, get away from your workspace whenever possible, and embrace change. If you can't change the physical environment you can certainly change the emotional one. 

Some say “If you don’t like your job you should get another one”, I say “Change the way you do your current job”.