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Don't Run In Heels

Last week, I temped in an office where everyone ran. Up and down the white carpeted hallway they ran. Why all this running in the age of intercoms and IM, I don't know. They all just ran. They ran so far away.

This running was especially common among the twenty-something secretarial staff. They ran here, there, and everywhere most of the time in heels.

As a thirty-something, I at first felt like a dinosaur, but then I realized that with age comes wisdom. I would like to pass some of that wisdom onto the twenty-something generation of office personnel.

Dear Bright Young Office Worker. . . .

I hope you are having a nice day and that everything is going your way. Here are some little bits of wisdom that I wish to pass onto you.

First of all, the running down the hallway. Please don't do that. Most importantly, please don't run in heels. Not only do you look silly, you look like you are about to fall over. Heels were not designed to be run in, and your feet will hurt at the end of the day.

In fact, don't run at all. Does the boss run? Does the janitor run? Just because the hallway is long, straight, and carpeted, does not mean it is a race track.

There are so many other places in this world where one can run---a gym, a track, a park, away from a burning building. But please don't run in the office. You can walk quickly---but only if you absolutely have to.

Next, multitasking. Multitasking was invented for the weakminded and unorganized.

When you're brushing your teeth, do you floss at the same time? Of course not. Do you want a brain surgeon to do anything else while operating on your brain? You don't have to answer that.

Yes, we live in a fast and frantic world with all four burners working on the stove, director's commentary on the DVDs, picture in picture. You can type a memo and visit your favorite website (that's happyrobot dot net, not dot com). We should enjoy life as much as possible, and our energy should go into that enjoyment---not to fulfill some horrible ideal of manic office efficiency.

It's okay in the office to slow down the pace. Hundred meter sprinters may run faster than marathoners, but they never have to race as far. Don't overwhelm yourself.

For example, if you're stuffing envelopes and covering phones, stop stuffing envelopes when the phone rings. You do not have to stuff envelopes and talk on the phone at the same time. Take your time. Do one task, finish it, and then move onto the next thing.

My next piece of office wisdom: The Copier is your friend.

Even though the copier wants to make copies for you, sometimes the paper will jam in the machine. Fortunately, the geniuses who built the copier made the insides user friendly with lots of plastic levers and turny things. Do not abandon your friend in its hour of need and leave the next copying person puzzled and forced to pull out your paper. No, open the machine and find the paper. You can do it. I know you can.

In every office I've worked in, there's always one person who's a psycho about color paper left in the copier. I personally don't care if my copies come out pastel pink because someone forgot to take their pink sheets out of the copier. I like having colors in my world. Colors make me happy.

However, there's the one miserable wench who loathes color paper. This is probably the same person who made the sign above the copier that reads: ‘Please remove color paper after copying. Thank you!!!!!!'

I don't think anyone's ever gotten fired for leaving colored paper in the copier. If you do get fired, tell them that's a dumb ass reason for firing someone.

Next, your shit is your shit, and someone else's shit is his/her shit. You go into the office to do your job---not someone else's job. Sure, sometimes someone needs a little help, and because we're decent human beings, we step up and help. That's goodness.

It's one thing to help out when the need arises. It's quite another thing to find yourself working for someone who's not your boss and extremely needy.

Ohhhh, but so-and-so has such a hard job that's so stressful with so much to do and there is just so much and no one understands and no one cares and no one likes me and and and and (sobbing starts here) there's just so much work!

So-and-so does not want help. So-and-so wants a nanny. You are not a nanny. You are not a best friend. You are an office worker. If you want to be a psychiatrist, go to night school.

If this sounds cruel to you, dear twenty-something, I have a feeling the thirty-somethings might say, ‘oh so-and-so is soooo like. . .'

Next, you don't have to eat meals at your desk.

I go back and forth on this one. Yes, it is a personal preference, and some people are happy eating lunch at their desk. It's a comfort to be able to eat at their desks undisturbed for an hour. Maybe the keywords in this lesson are ‘have to'. If you want to eat lunch at your desk, that's great, but you don't have to.

However, on behalf of my co-workers and myself who got to smell Thai food three times a week, get your lazy ass out of your chair and go out for lunch. Those windows have a great view of the world, but you can also go out into it during daylight hours.

Yes, you can eat and work at the same time, but that would be multitasking. Take a true lunch break. Enjoy your lunch. Eat, drink, be merry. Heck, take a special liquid lunch if you so choose.

To many this might seem obvious, but it took me a few years to understand the true power of the lunch hour. When I worked on Wall Street, I took hour-long walks along the East River. I was happy for the rest of the day.

I highly recommend having snacks and drinks at your desk. If you munch on carrots and celery throughout the day, you might even lose a few pounds. If you have chocolate, you will make friends quickly.

Next, be nice to your temp.

A temp comes into an office on very little notice with only a name and a vague idea of what they have to do. Usually a temp is called in when someone is out sick, on vacation, or maternity leave. Sometimes a temp is called in when someone wants to reorganize their files or has a project that's gotten a little bigger than originally expected.

The temp could be smart or stupid. The temp could pretend to be smart or stupid. One thing is true for all temps: a temp does not read minds.

A temp does not know what's going on in the next office. A temp does not know who is who and where and why. A temp does not care about who hates whom and who loves whom. A temp just wants to do whatever and go home.

When a temp shows up at your office, he/she wants to know only 5 things:

1. Where the bathroom is.

2. Where the kitchen is---and if there's free coffee.

3. Where to hang his/her coat.

4. Who will sign the time sheet.

5. When lunch is.

When giving work to a temp, don't say, ‘I have a really boring job for you.' That does not help the situation. A temp knows it will probably be a boring job, but so what. It's temporary. A temp is usually temporary because they are in the process of transition to something else.

Never yell at a temp, talk down to a temp, or think that the temp doesn't hear you. The temp hears everything, remembers everything, and can sabotage the fax machine. Fear the temp, respect the temp, be nice to the temp.

Finally, don't panic. You are working in an office. You are not working in an emergency room, an operating room, a war zone, or outer space. You are not swimming with sharks. You are not wrestling crocodiles or racing with cheetahs. You are in an office.

Yes, the company might be in trouble. Yes, you might be laid off. All of that is beyond your control. You might also get hit by a bus. You just never know.

I once asked a professional stuntman how he could put himself in physical danger for the sake of his job. This guy had done stunt work longer than most stunties. He had gotten hurt on the job---broken bones, metal pins, ouch. He was also one of the least stressed out people I've ever met. Most people would not be willing to fall down a flight of stairs for a living. I've never forgotten his answer.

‘When they say ‘action', I just do it. It's like a reflex.' He said with a shrug.

If a stuntman doesn't panic at work, then an office worker doesn't need to panic. Don't panic. Everything will be fine.

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