The year is 2016 – millions of us work in offices. Hours spent looking at backlit computer screens under artificial lights. We no longer work in buildings. Instead we exist in steel and glass containers.
And there is a price to pay for all this office time. More than half of all workers are unhappy. And their working environment is down as a big factor – wages and the people they work with less so.
Sitting in offices is killing us. Sedentary living is a factor in major illnesses such as heart disease, cancers and diabetes.
If you’re honest, you envy those travel bloggers who seem to live by the pool or the beach. Their ‘work’ seems to consist of going to awesome places and putting photos on Instagram.
Nice work if you can get it.
You’re Going to be Working in an Office for a Long, Long time
I’m not going to play you along. The chances are you work in an office. And you will for a long time. The office environment is so ingrained into a modern work culture that it’s difficult to see it changing much in the next 20 or even 30 years.
While technology is moving quickly and remote working is easier than ever, less than 1 in 5 Americans work from home (in the UK, it’s one in 7). Not exactly a sprint to the finishing line of closing the office doors for good.
As long as I’ve been working, I’ve been based in offices. I’ve had some good experiences and have found ways to make the whole experience easier.
When I first started to write this, I titled the post ‘How to Survive the Office Cubicle’. But that’s too negative. You can do more than just survive.
You can thrive.
My perspective on this changed after reading ‘The Rich Employee‘ by James Altucher. In this final part in the Choose Yourself trilogy, Altucher explains how you can thrive as an employee – choosing to deliver value to your employer and be rewarded in turn.
Until reading this I’d thought that my office experience was always going to be on borrowed time. That my destiny lay elsewhere: as an infopreneur or adventurer/investor.
But the office cubicle can become your creative space, your ideas factory if you choose to see it in that way. In the context of positive framing, the only limits on your working experience are in your own mind.
Well that all sounds fantastic. But how does it work in the real world?
I’m convinced there are things that you can do right now that will enhance and improve your working day and your life in general. The office experience doesn’t need to suck.
You don’t need to be in survival mode all the time. That might be what’s needed right now at this moment. But do you really want to just survive for the rest of your working life?
Or do you want to grow. To be more, do more and give more? Do you want to be able to excel at all aspects of your job? It might not bring you exceptional wealth, but is that what you want anyway?
What do most people want? To be happy, healthy and free. That’s what I want and you can be all these things without living the travel blogger lifestyle that seems so idyllic.
How can you reach this point of being satisfied and fulfilled at work? It took me a while to realise many of these truths and I’m still working and trying to deliver value every day.
But I want to share with you what I’ve learned – not because I want to brag or draw attention to myself – but so that you might know that the world of blinking computers and strip lighting doesn’t need to be one of quiet desperation. It can be a place of direction and fulfillment.
See the Office as a Place of Opportunity
The office doesn’t have to be a place of mere survival. If you see it that way, it will become what you imagine.
What if you chose to see your working environment in a different way? If you chose to see work as a place of opportunity?
Opportunity for what?
An opportunity for personal growth
An opportunity to bring value to the lives of others
An opportunity to gain new knowledge, training and skills
Even the most difficult and repressive working environment can be a place of growth. Like silver refined in a crucible, the harshness of a dead-end job can bring out the best in you.
If you choose to let it.
There is even a theory called ‘Anti-fragility’ which suggests that you can become stronger in the harshest of environments. It’s the philosophy behind this popular quote:
What ever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Do you work in an office? The statistics suggest you don’t like it. So try this:
Instead of walking into your place of working thinking ‘Man, I hate this place.’ use an affirmation (for more on affirmations, read this book).
It could be something like this:
My office is a place of opportunity. I am going to look for ways to add value to my clients and co-workers in any way possible.
If you did this tomorrow, would your day go better or worse? Try it and let me know how it goes.
Opportunities for Learning
The opportunities for learning in the office environment cannot be underestimated. Many of the most successful business people in the world have worked office jobs, often for decades.
The entrepreneur and financial guru Robert T. Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad) chose jobs that would teach him skills such as sales, client management and negotiation.
He used those skills to build a property empire while still working a 9-5 job. His co-workers only began to suspect something when he turned up in a brand new Mercedes Benz.
I’ve learned many skills from work place learning and training that I wouldn’t have been able to access outside of the office environment. Recently I was put on a management development programme that included courses in coaching, time management and conflict resolution.
As the writer and entrepreneur Scott Adams says, every new skill you learn doubles your chances of success. Even if that isn’t true, believing it is more likely to make you succeed. And learn new stuff.
The Practice of Office Working – Make Life Easy for Yourself
If you had the choice, would you rather make your life easier or harder?
So look for ways to make your life easier. Not harder.
What does that look like in practice? A good example is office gossip. We’ve all been there – hearing about the hot piece of scandal round the water cooler.
Or venting about how much So-And-So is overstepping the boundaries and needs to be taken down a peg.
What if you didn’t take part in that at all. I’m not talking about distancing yourself from your colleagues – but what if you weren’t someone who took part in office gossip.
Would your life be better? Probably.
Would your live be easier? Probably.
Gossip costs you more than your personal integrity. It can also cost you close friends and business opportunities:
I know of many people who were previously close friends who I have heard talk behind my back. How do I know this? Because other people gossip to me and tell me. Will I be as forthcoming to work with those people again? Probably not. Any opportunities I have that I would once have gladly shared with these people, I will no longer share.
James Altucher ‘The Rich Employee’
Making life easier can also take other forms. I’ve already written about how I use headphones and music to get into a flow state that makes me more productive. I can harness the energy of my personality and get more work done.
I’m also a big believer in personal comfort. And by that I mean wearing clothes that fit, don’t itch and don’t make you sweat.
Think about it: are you going to have a good day at work today if your trousers are too tight and your shoes rub your heels?
I didn’t think so.
This is all basic stuff right? But how many of you get it wrong. Wearing clothes and shoes that are comfortable is such a simple and controllable variable that I almost didn’t include it in this article.
Except that there was a time when I would have overlooked this in the name of vanity.
Not good and not smart.
Take Care of Your Health Or Die A Painful Horrible Death
Sedentary office life is a major factor in all kinds of modern diseases. Studies suggest that sitting around all day is literally killing us.
People who are inactive during the day are 40% more likely to die early than people who move about (Source).
There are other health problems associated with sitting in an office all day. This short video explains more:
How can you be more active during the day? There are three things you can add into your routine that will help you move and not get stuck into a tunnel of work. These are
Getting regular exercise
Micro focusing means working solidly for a period of time then having a short break before going back to your work. Try this: set an alarm on your phone for 25 minutes. When time’s up walk about for 5 minutes, get a drink of water (see below) or go walk up and down the stairs. Do this throughout an 8 hour day and you’ll be active for an hour at least.
2. Stay Hyrdated
Most of us can drink more water. I aim for anywhere in the region of 3-4 litres per day (around a gallon). This is double the recommended intake for adults of 2 litres which I’d see as an absoluteminimum. This will help with your overall health but also has the added advantage of making you get up and walk about – when you have to go pee of course.
3. Get Regular Exercise
I’d recommend getting some form of exercise during the day – that could be running, cycling, weight training or even walking. If you’re struggling for time during the day, get up early and fit it in – I was up at 5am for a run today so I can get on with the rest of my day. It’s not easy but it is worth it.
Incorporating these activities into your working day will make you live longer. And you’ll probably feel less stressed and have more energy.
Own the Office Environment
Imagine if you saw the office completely differently? Instead of a place of desperation, you could make it into a place you wanted to be.
Ultimately you have the ability to control your reality and the environment you work in. It doesn’t take much to transform your working day into something productive and uplifting. All you need is a change in mindset and an more healthy approach – both mentally and physically.
If you do these things, you won’t just survive the office.
P.S. This was a long post. Thankfully my emails are shorter. Get them by signing up here.