Secretarial: How to put the perk back into your work
Pep me up before my get-up-and-go goes, says Debbie Barham
Wednesday 09 September 1998
When your waste-paper bin basketball skills are on a par with Magic Johnson, your Blu-Tack supply has metamorphosed into an intricate scale replica of the Eiffel Tower and you can immediately recognise individual pigeons on your window ledge simply by their distinctive tail feathers, you can confidently assume that you are in immediate need of some extra ooomph.
How you tackle the situation varies from job to job. Here are a few strategies that you could employ to put some perk back in your work.
"The life force of the Amazon" - so if your job involves a lot of hunting things, battling through dense creepers, or shooting at people with poisoned darts this could be the perfect choice (and you are probably in the customer relations field). Ginkgo comes in various forms: capsules, chewing-gum (handy if you run out of Blu-Tack) and strange little phials with names like "Energy Bomb" - expensive at pounds 1.99 each.
If your colleagues have been rubbing you up the wrong way, a good pummelling can often relieve the tension. These days, pressing the flesh is not just restricted to high-flying execs - many bosses, wary of RSI-related tribunals, now offer a weekly massage as a perk of the job. This should, however, be done in some privacy by a professional masseur. If the hands squeezing your bod belong to anyone else, motivate yourself to bring a harassment suit against them.
What is new about offices providing employees with a place to grab 40 winks during the working day? Well, these days it's not called "your desk". If a futon suddenly appears in the office, this could mean that your boss is embracing the concept of "power napping". And if we are coming into line with other European business practices, why not take a siesta as well?
Any smoker in a non-smoking office won't rate the idea of "going outside for some fresh air" as being at all motivational. But a brisk stroll round the block can perk you up (make it obvious, though, that you are not just bunking off and going home early) - even just opening a window makes a difference. Genuinely fresh air, though, is a rare commodity in the average city office. Real purists fork out for a canister of pure oxygen, although the price is likely to leave you gasping. Fortunately, Britain will soon have its first American-style "oxygen bars", where - unlike president Clinton - you can inhale to your heart's content.
Pills such as ProPlus are basically just another way to obtain a quick caffeine fix, without all that tedious business of walking over to the coffee machine, exchanging pleasantries/insults/gossip with your colleagues, wondering why the machine has given you oxtail soup when you pressed "cappuccino", and so on. But watch out - if you overdo the caffeine pills, your get- up-and-go will turn into get-uptight-and-go-completely-loopy.
Remember that office nerd who used to turn up with his little plastic lunch box of raw carrots and carton of V8? He's about to become the height of health-conscious hipness. Juice bars are usurping gourmet coffee joints as the place for go-getters to go when they need a buzz. Try a Mega Detox (beetroot, carrot, celery and apple, with a spirulina or blue-green algae supplement for that extra kick) - or a Stress Buster Combo (carrot, spinach, lemon with added wheatgerm or Vitamin C). If you are not lucky enough to have a local juice joint yet, then maybe you could replace the office kettle with an electric juicer?
Even Peter Mandelson has recently discovered the joys of yoga (though the lotus position is unlikely to challenge him: he is already supple enough to bend over backwards and disappear up his own posterior). Learn a few simple breathing exercises and you can practise them even at your desk. More advanced techniques, such as yogic flying, are best saved for after work (requesting permission to bounce around on a mattress in a variety of difficult physical positions may give your boss the wrong idea about you). The drawback? In busier offices, attaining any degree of mental tranquillity could be a tough one.
Staring at little flashing lights on a screen may not sound like the perfect way to revitalise you after a long stint at the computer - gadgets such as the "Mind Lab" might work for some people, but are best avoided if you're epileptic or technophobic, or do not want to sit at your desk wearing Star Trek goggles (this will probably just invigorate your colleagues to laugh at you). Similarly - "motivational" cassettes are invariably voiced by earnest American men with too many Christian names (eg Doctor Ernest Ernest Ernest Richard Keene the Third, Jnr) and tend to be more demoralising than revitalising. My advice? Swap the tape for Agadoo and boogie round the office for five minutes. If your boss asks, just pretend that it is dictation.
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