when you should default to “no,” how to be productive when you’re sleep-deprived, and more

Over at QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now, including why you should default to “no” when you’re overwhelmed, how to be productive when you’re sleep-deprived, and more. You can read it here.

{ 55 comments… read them below }

  1. Tavie*

    The thing I’m proudest of any my current job, of all my achievements, is suggesting to the (FABULOUS) office manager that a “nap room” be created for our multi-floor office of about 300 employees.

    She actually took me seriously and set up a “Quiet Room”, complete with a loveseat, a pillow with disposable pillowcases, a noise machine, a “Vacant/Occupied” slider, and indirect lighting. The room can (and must) be booked via Outlook calendar like any other conference room.

    I now eat my lunch at my desk and have a daily 2-3 pm “lunch” appointment in the nap room to get some shuteye. It’s made my afternoons so much better. As someone who’s been struggling with sleep issues my entire life, this is the most thrilling development in my work life I’ve ever experienced.

    1. Ife*

      This would be The Best. Most days I just need a 30 nap around 2:00 otherwise I am worthless for the next 2 hours.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      My first job out of college had a couple of nap rooms… but they were right next to HR, and employees suspected that every time someone used a nap room, it was documented for their employee file. So nobody used them. What a waste!

      I am so envious of your setup!

      1. Seal*

        A place I worked years ago had nap room. But it was a shared room with 2 uncomfortable cots that was located right off the rather loud and busy staff lounge, so very few people used it regularly. I suspect that’s what the administration wanted, though.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ooooh, you should be proud of making that happen! That sounds amazing.

      One of the nicest things about working at home is that the nap room is right upstairs.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        There is a futon in my office because it doubles as our guest room. Its safe to say I can verify that it is comfortable for our guests to sleep on.

    4. K.*

      Oh man, I would love this. I’ve battled insomnia on and off my entire adult life – I’m actually sleep-deprived right now because the past few weeks have been bad. A quiet place to grab a nap would be amazing.

      I have a friend who has a day bed in his private office, and he grabs power naps during his busy season when his hours are insane. I don’t think he’d be able to get through the season without them.

    5. twig*

      That’s awesome! I work in a campus library and we have a “wellness room” but I call it the nap room.

      It has a recliner, some art and a small lamp and table so that you can turn down the overhead lights or turn them out all together. They also have a fancy pumping machine for lactating mothers — they just need to bring their own attachments for it.

      I love that my workplace has this available for everyone. I always make sure that new people know about the nap room– it’s not exactly advertised widely.

    6. Camellia*

      One room for 300 employees? How does that work? Are there only a small percentage of people who are interested in using it?

      1. Tavie*

        It’s only been mentioned in company-wide emails once or twice, so only the people who are paying attention know to book and use it.

        I like it that way…

    7. friendlyinitials*

      That is SO awesome! Honestly I would be fine if I could take a couple 15 minute naps at my desk even, but that nap room sounds like the ultimate dream. :)

  2. Piper*

    I’ve spent 10 of 19 years in the workforce doing jobs that required me to be on my feet. I have ZERO interest in a standing desk. If there is a chair available, I am going to put my butt in it always.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I’ve spent most of the time sitting and like to be able to stand for a bit at a time and then sit back down. But the other thing that’s nice about sit/stand desks is being able to adjust them so the desk is at the right height for you sitting…I think this is the first time I’ve *ever* had a desk that was at the right height for me to sit at it. Ergonomically, or comfort-wise.

    2. Ex Resume Reviewer*

      I think I’d like to try one. I get super fidgety if I sit too long, especially if I am on a long call. I’d love to be able to raise my desk up and stand for a bit instead of spinning in my chair like a school kid. :/

      I think it’d also be nice on days when I am sleep deprived, as I find standing up for a bit or walking around can help “wake” me up for a little while.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s so true. At my old job, there was a stretch of the year where I was just at my desk reading files all day, and I really appreciated the chance to work standing up for a while, just so I felt less like a pancake.

      2. JOTeepe*

        Same here. Also, my hips are already very tight, and I find sitting all day often makes them worse. (It’s probably why they are so tight in the first place!) But, we aren’t quite “there” yet at my workplace (unless we want to purchase our own … which I am considering!)

  3. Kyrielle*

    This is quite useful to me right now. :) Thank you.

    Also, I don’t know if my new sit/stand desk has improved my productivity or not (it may actually, I can concentrate better in some cases), but it has definitely made me happier, more comfortable, and led to my feeling even more appreciative of my employer.

    1. Ife*

      I think there should be a sit/stand/lay desk. I have done some of my best work reclining on the couch. Definitely not ergonomic, but effective nonetheless.

      1. T3k*

        +1 When I was in college, I had this awesome comfy butterfly chair that let me sit however I wanted to (laying, half sunk in, legs folded underneath, etc) and it helped me concentrate so much better than sitting up right.

        1. Just started workig*

          I feel like I can concentrate better when I’m comfortable because then there is nothing bothering me and nothing to get in the way of studying.

  4. Menacia*

    I think this is indirectly related because I am currently looking at sit/stand desks (the kind that sit on your desk), has anyone had any experience with them beyond the Varidesk brand? We are looking into adding them (or at least giving users the option of having one) when we redo our call center next year.

    1. Pwyll*

      I went the oldschool route and got one with a crank to raise and lower. Big mistake. It’s such a hassle to raise that I literally don’t use it to stand anymore.

      Electronic or tabletop is the way to go.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I briefly got to use a sit-stand tool on a normal desk at a previous job. I now have a full sit-stand desk where the desk surface raises at my new job. I will suggest that if it’s feasible, you at least consider the latter.

      The former is…better than nothing. Way better. But it’s not remotely in the league of the full sit-stand desk.

      Things the mounted hardware couldn’t do that my current setup can:
      * Lower the desk to the right height for me to sit at (the desk surface was too high, as I’m short; at the lowest setting, the mounted hardware was too high).
      * Make all my tools and workspace available when I was standing. Only the computer stood with me, so note-taking materials and the phone were now ‘way down there’.
      * Adjust to the correct sitting height for anyone. The two really tall guys on our team with long legs find the current desks as usable both sitting and standing as I, the shortest, do.

      Also, the desk-mounted one you lifted to height and lowered back. It moved really smoothly and wasn’t difficult to move despite how it looked – but it tended to ‘clunk’ loudly into place. The soft electronic whine of the actual desk raising and lowering is actually much more subtle.

    3. SRB*

      We exclusively use Varidesk for our standing desks here, from what I can tell. People love it. It’s very easy to move up and down to accommodate people of wildly different heights. They had tried some other brands, but they weren’t as easily adjustable, or they didn’t let you pull it down so you can sit sometimes, or they didn’t accommodate both our 5’2″ people AND our 6’2″ people.

      1. Sutemi*

        I actually cannot use the Varidesk to sit at all, I am too short. The desk is already too high for me and the Varidesk sits on top of it. I can only use it in standing mode. My company started with Varidesk but now has other options for us short people.

        1. Callietwo*

          Do you know what those other options are? I’m researching various options before I make my request. One of my issues is that I see clients in my office and it’s a cubicle with a counter style desk. I HATE my keyboard tray as it’s a straight tray that you pull out from the curved part of the counter. But I can’t stand sitting on my behind all day long so when I have printed materials, I stand up and pace in my tiny little space to read. I want a sit/stand desk so bad!

    4. Ex Resume Reviewer*

      I’ve seen a Varidesk at my current workplace, and it appears very nice. Lots of levels to adjust, very easy and smooth to do–the person who has one can easily do it mid-call without dropping a beat. They do take up a lot of desk surface though, so if your cubes/desk is small they may not work. I am hoping to be able to try one soon.

      My old job had a different model that required you to lift the piece, then slide another support under the front side to keep it up. It would barely hold two monitors and seemed really unstable, and since there was no space for anything but your keyboard and mouse, if you took notes by hand or wanted to refer to papers or anything, you were forced to look down or sit down. Plus there was no adjustment for the keyboard or mouse height, just a flat surface to place everything on. I have a long torso so I don’t think it would’ve ever worked for me there. The cubes there were too small for a Varidesk, but I also think price came into play.

  5. OlympiasEpiriot*

    About 4 years ago I got a lecture from a particular Partner at my firm that I was never allowed to say ‘no’ to a request to do something. I couldn’t say I was busy. I just had to fit it in, whatever it was. The last couple of years, we as a firm have been swamped, not just busy. This last year, I’ve been late or nearly late on almost every one of my jobs on at least a couple of tasks; largely, this is because I am just exhausted in a really systemic way from years of feeling like I’m surfing a tsunami. It has nothing to do with delegating, I do that just fine. This year at my review, the *same Partner* told me I need to learn how to say ‘no’. I reminded him of his former (and repeated) instructions.

    Standing desk or sitting desk, it just isn’t enough movement. Bad for your back or bad for your circulation.

    1. Pwyll*

      I imagine the response was “We never told you that you can’t say no, just that the work has to get done”?

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Really, there was a flicker of recognition in his eyes, but then he just flitted away onto another subject. I swear, he has the shortest attention span in anyone I have ever met.

        The whole review was odd, like all management meetings here. I vented about another part of the review in the Friday thread last week. I’ll post a link to my comment in a reply to this.

          1. Happy Lurker*

            Thank you for the reference point. It is like a light bulb for me. Kudos for you for sticking up for yourself.
            I once (think 18-20 years ago) received some kind of similar “you can’t say no” talk. I remember working a consistent 60-70 hours every week for an entire summer. When I asked for a day off (Columbus Day mind you and I had been with the company for 10 months with no sick days or any time off), I got a PIP. I had a new job in 2 weeks.

    2. Jennifer*

      I also work in an industry where you cannot say no to anything unless it’s forbidden by regulations. I rolled my eyes at this.

    3. Ex Resume Reviewer*

      It was changed at my last job so that my position wasn’t allowed to say no to anything either, but everyone else could say no to people in my position! So I’d constantly be stuck dealing with a task for a customer that I would get in trouble for doing because the people meant to do that task would refuse to do it when I asked. Finally I started getting into enough trouble with management that I just came to them every time my coworkers refused to do their jobs. Of course there were no repercussions from management overall, but my coworkers would seethe when management came and told them to do it after they brushed me off. So my coworkers got pissed at everyone in my position and the nice functioning team that I was hired into began to break down.

  6. Erin*

    I’ve found when I’m tired taking little breaks, especially to stand up or walk around, are helpful. If you normally eat at your desk, take a walk around the building or something.

  7. C Average*

    I thought the article about functioning when sleep-deprived was interesting–definitely some good insights there.

    I found the suggestion to proof emails and other communications particularly thought-provoking, and for different reasons than the author probably intended. I’ve spent a decent chunk of time in the corporate environment, and I’ve worked with literally dozens of people who were smart and competent (to varying degrees) who appeared to NEVER proof their emails. In fact, I was considered an outlier because my emails were always proofed: I was once introduced at a meeting as “the woman who has never made a typo in her life,” and everyone who knew me laughed and agreed. Plenty of other people misspelled (including names), didn’t bother with capitalization or punctuation, didn’t appear to know that paragraphs were a thing (or broke their communications into weird haiku-like formats), and definitely were not making any effort to proof the communications they sent out.

    And they were not sleep-deprived or on their phones or, as far as I know, illiterate. They just apparently didn’t consider that stuff important.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I once wrote an email about a technical, and somewhat contentious, issue. I proofed it carefully. I tweaked and adjusted it. I wanted to be sure it was accurate, clear, and yet unlikely to offend anyone even if they disagreed with it. Finally I got it all cleaned up and how I wanted it.

      I had someone else glance it over, they agreed, and I added the recipients and typed my usual sign off and sent it.

      The email itself was gorgeous, but it was signed the equivalent of, “Thanks, Kyrillee”….

      1. Callietwo*

        This is where the mail program signature files help out! I have four- default, one for replies with just my name, then one each with the words “thanks” and “regards” in front of the default that I can choose with a right click if appropriate. Helps me out so much since I’m required to include a lot into my signatures by company policy.

  8. SJ*

    The one and only time I said “no” to something my boss asked me to do in my 3 years of working here — it was for an incredibly lengthy award application that was due in maybe 3 days, and I was swamped with other things — he immediately shot back an email: “What are you doing that’s more important?” You probably have to know my boss to know that he wasn’t asking that with a genuine concern for my workload, but as a sarcastic demand to know what my OBVIOUSLY misplaced priorities were. I straight-forwardly told him exactly what I was working on and offered to find someone else who might have the time to work on the application (no promises, obviously, with 3 days in which to do it), but I was furious that day. He’s just the kind of boss who takes a “no” as a total failure of character.

  9. Stephanie*

    #2: Yeah, I ran into this semi-regularly when I was on second shift. Granted, since we were all on evenings and overnights on my team, it was totally acceptable (if it wasn’t busy) just to be like “I can’t stay awake. I’m leaving early.”

    But it I couldn’t, or just didn’t want to leave early, I second proofing everything. I tried to read things backwards. If I could, I avoided anything super tedious. I also took regular Breaks. My job involved going on an operations floor regularly, so I would also take that time to go do things on the floor.

  10. madge*

    I have sleep issues and keep a file of deadline-free mind-numbingly dull tasks for the worst parts of my day. I turn on something like Disappeared-type shows (anything I can listen to without watching) and dig in. I’ve tried everything from aromatherapy to standing to certain snacks/drinks but nothing makes up for sleep loss so I work around it.

  11. Standing ugh*

    I went to a two hour meeting this week where there were six chairs for about 25 people, and a bunch of high top tables. It was clear they were following the standing desk school of thought. This was an offsite meeting with a company pitching a bunch of partner offs on a project, so not a situation where I’d expect it as part of the culture…. I’d only met with this group once before. I was first confused, then annoyed, and everyone bolted as soon as time was up. If I had known I’d be standing for two hours, I would have worn different shoes, at a minimum. Ugh.

  12. AnonyMeow*

    I was a sleep-deprived zombie after a hot, humid night (and after losing the whole weekend to a rather intense, team-based exercise for my grad school program) today. I had an Important Meeting in the late afternoon, for which I had to do some intense thinking in preparation. That was *not* working. I had to pretty much wing the meeting; my brain just wasn’t able to put together a coherent thought. I could really have used a mind-numbing task to while away the day!

    Drinking coffee, walking around in the office, munching on almonds–nothing helped. The only thing that helped (somewhat) was the actual walk outside to get to the Important Meeting. That woke me up a bit, and I actually did come up with something coherent that I could base my “input” for the meeting on. I think the sun helps.

  13. stevenz*

    “A recent well-publicized study showing that employees who used sit-stand desks were 46% more productive than those at traditional desks …”

    No way, Jose. That kind of change in productivity is very likely impossible except over a period of decades. And if it were true, we would have used standing desks long ago.

    Standing desks are for people with ailments that are not helped by sitting. (Sitting being one of the worst things you can do to your back.) Standing can also make a nice break from sitting too long. But I know when I used a standing desk because of my back, my feet hurt! And I was less productive, too because it felt so unnatural.

    1. Alix*

      Yeah, but did it feel unnatural just because you weren’t used to it, though? I mean, sleeping in beds feels unnatural to me because I developed the quirk of preferring to sleep on the floor. (Dunno why, just did.) I can adjust, but it takes a week or two minimum of some not-so-restful nights to do so. I imagine there’s a similar thing with desk type.

      I’m honestly not sure if I’d prefer to deal with back pain or foot pain. On the one hand, back pain’s the thing more likely, for me, to linger and keep me up at night; on the other hand, I’m a pedestrian and bad enough foot pain makes it hard to get home. Hm.

  14. Jill*

    I have a 2 year old and a 3 year old. The two year old still doesn’t sleep through the night so I’m on 3 years of lousy sleep. My best strategy is that I stop working a half hour before the end of my day and go through everything – email box, my desk inbox, all my piles and my notebook and make a new “to do” list for the next day with the three most important tasks at the top and any appointments written in red. That way, if I come in like a zombie the next day, which is more often than not, I at least know what to tackle first. The days I fail to do my list are the most scattered, wasted days for me.

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