UNLESS IT IS AN ENGROSSING FILM or a book – in other words, unrelated to work -I must confess my inability to focus continuously on any piece of work at office with the same degree of intensity for more than a couple of hours. At the end of the two hour involvement I would need to get up, move around, and do something else completely unrelated to work for about 10-15 minutes before returning to work on hand. The pangs of guilt associated with this break from work have been less painful in the wake of psychological studies that reassure me that such intervals enhance productivity. I would like to term such breaks as necessary diversions even if someone were to remind me that I am paid for the work that I do and not for the diversions that I indulge in.
LEST I AM REPRIMANDED FOR ENCOURAGING spells of temporary slackness at work, I must confess that I do not at all advocate long spells of chatter in an office merely because work on hand is genuinely uninteresting. We are undoubtedly paid for what we do and hence the diversions we seek must be in the direction of alleviating tedium or anxiety and this should, by no means undermine the rendering of our deliverables at the workplace. We should be mindful enough to ensure that while we switch off from work for a fleeting interval we do indeed return to what is on hand as soon as possible – no one can finish the unfinished tasks that are assigned to us individually.
WHAT INDEED COULD BE THE SO CALLED necessary diversions at work ? This varies from person to person and no one could lay any norms on what these distractions can be except to say that the necessary interval has to be as brief as possible, without unsettling other colleagues who may be busy and without adversely impacting a previously committed deadline. I know a CEO who plays Patience and yet another who has a crack at Sudoku when he is hot under the collar. A colleague checks the SENSEX and quickly returns to his official Outlook screen. Yet another writes a few personal emails. Working mothers check out on their kids who have been placed in charge of maids at home or at the creche or whether their kids have returned home safely from school; some pay bills on line. Of course all of this usually happens accompanied with the ubiquitous cup of coffee or chai and if there is a cricket match on, the diversions can be intermittent too !
BEHIND MY DESK I KEEP SMALL pocket book of aphorisms that I dip into frequently for a shot in the arm and to mull over dreamily, and, depending on the day of the week, I am in the company of my favorite FT columnists within arms reach. If it is Sunday, (the first working day here in the Middle East), I savor Anna Metcalfe’s Small Talk or the FT Lunch Interview, and on other days it could be Lucy Kellaway, or a John Kay. Anne Wroe’s weekly obituary column in The Economist keeps me spellbound too and I am not ashamed to seek solace in a Shreya Ghoshal or a Sanjay Subramanyan. For probably the right reasons, YouTube is out of bounds for us at office otherwise I would have probably checked out on the latest TED talk (as it does not last for more than 15 minutes!) or even watched Gangnam Style !
SHORT AS THESE BREAKS ARE they make us feel relaxed and rested – pretty much like cat naps. They renew one’s energy which may have sapped somewhat after a continuous spell at work. They assist in a kind of homecoming to our original work domains. As long as the breaks are not overdone, they relieve monotony.
THE ARGUMENT MADE FOR NECESSARY diversions must of course logically extend after office hours and to weekends too – one should aim to switch oneself off from work completely once out of office. Only then can we meaningfully attain a work-life balance.