Balancing act: Reader messages give comfort on work quirks
Thanks to emails, Facebook posts and online comments from readers of this column, I now know I'm not the only person with some unusual work habits.
It's reassuring to have colleagues in quirkiness, and that's one reason I appreciate the messages you send.
For example, in a column a couple of months ago about teaching children to work, I admitted that I'm a bit obsessive about loading the dishwasher at home. I wrote that I feel like I'm the only one in my family who loads it correctly, so it's been hard for me to turn that chore over to my children.
However, I'm happy to report that I'm not alone in my sickness. A reader named Jo Ellen sent me an email saying that paragraph described her perfectly.
"There is a right way to load a dishwasher for maximum number of items and cleanliness," she wrote. "And I am the only person I know who does it correctly. If the world paid for expert dishwasher loaders like they pay for professional basketball players, you and I would be very rich."
So true, Jo Ellen! In fact, that makes me think we should start a professional dishwasher-loading tour. I'm sure people would fork out big bucks to watch people like us compete.
I can hear the commentary now: "It looks like Jo Ellen has reached the limit for loading this particular dishwasher, but ... wait ... she's managed to fit in one more bowl! What a masterful piece of dish manipulation!"
Dare to dream, right?
Several readers also responded to a recent column in which I mentioned results of a survey that said more than 70 percent of workers reported better time management and interpersonal communication skills on days that they exercised during work hours. The survey also indicated that 41 percent of the exercising workers felt more motivated.
One reader, named Lindsay, responded that she read the column just after completing her first morning run in 10 years.
"Although I work at home now ..., I've found that when I get up early to do anything, let alone exercise, I always feel much more productive and less stressed," Lindsay wrote. "I was hardly ever late to work when I did this, and I had more energy — both physically and emotionally — starting my day.
"Now, I have more 'me time' at the end of the day because I'm tackling all the big to-do's first thing before my son wakes up. For this reason alone I recommend getting up early and working out. It truly does make a huge difference.
"Also, when I was working full time, though my companies offered various health incentive programs, they were not actually giving us the proper time to participate, and so they always failed. If companies are serious about this, they need to go all the way in promoting participation."
I agree on the importance of corporate support, Lindsay. Thanks for the comments.
Another reader, Ann, echoed those sentiments in a post on my Facebook page.
"My last job site had showers. ... If you felt the need to get out of the office (and beyond the breakroom), you had two options: Either go shopping or eat fast food at the shopping center down the street," Ann wrote. "My friend and I would go running, either a loop around the neighboring 'hoods or track work at a nearby (junior) high. It not only boosted productivity, but it kept us from spending money we didn't need to spend."
What an excellent fringe benefit of exercise!
Another reader, identified in an email only as a teenager who is starting ninth grade this month, wrote that exercise helps students as well as people in the corporate world.
"I've noticed that the kids at my school who exercise regularly are much happier, less stressed, and able to do better in classes, unlike kids who don't exercise, who are more stressed, and lazier in classes," the teenager wrote. "People who work harder in gym class are happier and healthier than those who slack.
"I'm on summer break right now, but I recently joined my local pool's swim team. It's not competitive, but it is a good workout. I've noticed that I don't get stressed as often as I did when I wasn't exercising, and when I do get stressed, I'm able to handle it better, and I'm happier. That being said, I do believe that exercise is a positive thing for a workplace to have."
Thanks for sending me your comments and for setting a good example. Hopefully the positive habits you're developing now will serve you well throughout your life, both in school and on the job.
I'd be interested in any further comments readers may have on this subject or any others I've addressed recently. Please send me your ideas, and I may use them in a future column.
Meanwhile, I'll keep working out on my exercise bike every morning. I've got to make sure I'm ready when I get drafted into that pro dishwasher-loading league.