Someone smug probably told you – “no pain no gain”. This perverse maxim of modernity has many forms, each more dramatic than the last – “Pain is weakness leaving the body” (US Marine Corps/ That Guy at the Gym). “Victory isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” (Arnold H. Glasgow/ Indie Rock Band)
Basically, dear corporate soldier hunched at your battle station, armed with state-of-the-art HD display and a crick in the neck, “If it hurts, you’re doing it right”. Society is propelled by a sense of inadequacy. We continually push ourselves, trying to be smarter, faster, richer, thinner – better. Goals are great; they motivate us, and get us out of bed in the morning. What becomes tricky however, is the counterintuitive notion that anything worth doing also has to be difficult.
More hours clocked at a desk (where you also eat your lunch) are supposed to mean more work done. As a species, we dutifully put in at least 40 a week, but when you say, “I had a pretty productive day!” – it is always with a certain degree of surprise, and not what your envious co-workers ever want to hear. We collectively bemoan the tedium of the grind. We wear a long, hard day at the office as a badge of solidarity – except that membership is mandatory and we spend all day planning our grand escape.
It’s Monday afternoon. You already feel like taking lovely long walk to shake out the kinks that now feel like a permanent feature of your spine, but there isn’t quite enough time today (or tomorrow, for that matter). Hey, Ernie from HR just got that standing desk put in, aren’t there studies that show how much body fat you’ll burn and how much faster you’ll whizz through those spreadsheets? Better get on it then, what if he’s right?
You’re info-savvy and you’ve done your research on workstation optimization. You’re cautious about trends (we’re looking at you, treadmill desk and exercise ball chair) and having a standing desk is appealing because it seems like a safe way to push/punish yourself. Your Fitbit can’t tell the difference, and neither can you. Which is why you are surprised at how comfortable it is to stand instead of sit, how much energy you have despite working all day, and yes, Ernie is looking pretty dapper lately, but not as much as you.
By now you’re feeling chipper, a few of your – ‘cutting-edge! creative!’ – ideas have been well received and enthusiastically implemented. The ache in your back is gone and while you still drink coffee with breakfast, you’ve cut out the 11am brew and are slowly weaning off the essential post lunch dose. What kind of monster are you? Irene from Accounting surveys you suspiciously.
A recent Gallup survey puts you in the magic 13% of employees that are engaged at work, and ‘likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations’. Sorry, Irene. You’re up 12% in productivity, and a couple of reputable sources have good money on that number to keep rising. Swapping out slumping for standing has lifted your mood along with the rest of you, decreased tension and increased focus. As a particularly eloquent researcher at the University of Warwick puts it, ‘positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings’. Water is wet, and your sense of humour is back. He’s right. You feel great.
You also feel a little guilty, because you’re not used to finding things rewarding without practically breaking your back to deserve it. It feels a little bit like cheating, because you’ve found a way to turn the difficulty mode way down but still get to the hidden bonus level. It’s kind of like separating egg yolks with a squeeze bottle or using a fork to hang a painting, but not really. You’ve actually lifehacked your life. Now you’re the smug one.
Don't overdo it, Irene. Less pain more gain.
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