Tag Archives: Desk

Work Time Shouldn’t Be On All The Time

Being in constant contact with work is not a good thing.

Oh, sure with the advent of e-mail and the Blackberry, being able to check your work e-mail while home was seen as a good thing. You could point to how indispensable you were because work had to be able to contact you at all times.

You could surprise people by having the response to their end-of-the-day e-mail on their desk the very next morning by the time they got in because you answered it at 11 pm before you went to bed.

The problem with the situation we’ve created is that now folks expect you to respond instantly. You are expected to be in constant contact with work, to never be off the clock.

And that, dudes, is not a good thing. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Last Saturday a friend of mine was compulsively checking his cell phone just before 11pm when he saw an email from his boss that had come in minutes before. The note asked that my friend make a change to the company website. Since it was the middle of the weekend, he figured the chore could wait. But the next day at 10:30am the boss sent another email, demanding to know why my friend hadn’t done the task.

Susan Adams, a Forbes staff writer, brings news that researchers have found pretty solid evidence that checking your e-mail or even playing around with your futurephone during the evenings is a bad idea, health-wise.

A new paper by three business school professors reveals what most of us probably realize but have trouble acting on: Checking our smartphones after 9pm stresses us out, saps our energy and makes it tough to fall asleep. The paper goes on to say something few of us probably want to admit: Using our smartphones late at night to keep up with work has a hangover effect, depleting the vigor we would put into work the next day.

“Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep,” said Russell E. Johnson, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State’s Broad College of Business, in a statement. Johnson admits to keeping his smartphone at his bedside at night. “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep,” he added.

According to a relatively recent study, more than half of all adult Americans own a futurephone of some kind. That number is only going to get higher, which means that the number of adults who feel they have to be available to their work every hour of every day of every week of every year is only going to rise.

This sort of constant-on behavior leaves us no time to relax, no time to recharge our mental energies. It’s exhausting, in more ways than one.

Imagine you’re raising a tiny baby dude now, in this sort of environment. What will she think growing up when she realizes that you will only play with her until the boxy thing in your pocket bleeps at you and then you put her down and pick it up? Is your child really second-fiddle to a futurephone?

I realize it’s not necessarily the futurephone holding you hostage, but the working environment that it represents. And, certainly, no one person can say, “This far and no further. The line must be drawn and it must be drawn here.” and stop the whole cycle.

But maybe, dudes. . . Maybe if enough of us were to point to the health and workplace deficits inherent in the current always-on system. . . Maybe then we could make a change for the better.

 

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A Universe Of Worlds, Each Separate And Alone

To look at a child with severe autism from the outside, is to see a child fully immersed in a world that can be shared by no one else. It is a world of one, a universe of one. No matter how many people surround and love the child, there can be no response.

Across a gulf of infinite space, the child’s mind drifts alone, unconnected, unreachable.

Or is it?

According to Dr. Robert Melillo, founder of the  Brain Balance Achievement Centers, an internationally recognized expert on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and author of the recent book,  Autism: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders–and What Parents Can Do Now, it is completely possible to cross that gulf and bring connections to that child’s isolated mind.

“There’s nothing preventing change. There’s nothing damaging his brain (if he has an ASD). So, why can’t he get better?”

I sat down with Dr. Melillo recently and asked him about this. Well, I sat down at my desk and he was at his desk and we were both talking on the phone. But we were sitting down. It counts.

Before we get any further, let’s define a few things. It’ll make for a slightly easier discussion later on. Autism isn’t a binary disorder. That is, it’s not a question of you either have it or you don’t. Unlike pregnancy, you can have a little bit of autism. That’s the reason for the Autism Spectrum Disorder bit up above.

Think of it as a sliding scale. On one end, you’ve got your completely neurotypical individual who performs within the norms on all tests. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a person with very severe autism, a person who might exhibit symptoms like complete withdrawal, rocking back and forth, head banging on walls, everything most laymen think about when they consider autism.

Those are the outliers, though, dudes. Most of the people on the spectrum (which is what it’s called these days) are somewhere in the middle. Think of it as a classic bell-shaped curve with neurotypical on one end and completely withdrawn autism on the other.  Included on the spectrum are disorders such as Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, Specific Learning Disabilities, Asperger’s Syndrome and others.

So, you see, saying someone has autism just doesn’t work. For a diagnosis to do any good, you’ve got to do a lot more testing and find out where on the spectrum that patient is, what kind of symptoms present and the rest. It is, as you might guess, a delicate task that involves a lot of work. And, to make it even more difficult, we don’t know what causes ASDs. We think there’s a genetic disposition and, probably, environmental triggers, but we don’t know.

Despite the difficulty in correctly placing people with ASD on the spectrum, we’ve seen an amazingly steep growth curve in the number of diagnosed cases in just the last decade.

“People think that autism’s cause is purely genetic,” Melillo said, asking how, if the cause is genetic are we suddenly experiencing such an upsurge in cases? “There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. But look at the prevalence of autism. We’ve gone from one in 10,000 to one in 50, as of last week.”

Now, when something like this shows up in such huge numbers, my first thought is that it’s not an actual increase in cases, but, rather, doctors simply are doing a better job of recognizing and diagnosing the disorder. Melillo, though, said that just doesn’t cover what he’s been seeing.

Melillo said that is one of the reasons he wrote his first book. “People are completely unaware that you can prevent it.”

We’ll talk more about that one tomorrow.

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Traditional Philosophy Helping Mold Young Minds

It was the second thing I noticed when I walked into her classroom. A big sign saying “I am who I am because of who we all are.”

Incidentally, the first thing I noticed when I walked into Mrs. C’s room at Awesome Elementary School, where I’m working as a reading tutor, was that the students didn’t have chairs and desks.Oh, they had desks and they were sitting down, but they didn’t have chairs. Instead, the students were sitting, balancing and gently bouncing on large Swiss exercise balls.

Because Mrs. C teaches a lot of kids with learning differences, she said she’s done some research about ways to keep the kids focused. She’s found that having the kids sitting on the balancing balls helps to burn off some of that excessive energy that can make teaching kids with ADD or ADHD or other learning disabilities such a drain on many teachers.

The kids, of course, love them. Except when they get carried away and start bouncing up and down on the Swiss balls like grasshopper on a sugar high. The threat of making them sit in normal chairs usually is enough to get them to settle down.

Despite having what seems to be a bit of a chaotic classroom, Mrs. C keeps things humming right along. She’s got the kids doing what needs to be done in a collaborative method. Heck, sometimes she even gives up the big desk to an especially hardworking student, sitting down elsewhere while the student works at her desk.

But this isn’t a story about how awesome Mrs. C is, or how she perfectly fits into the progressive traditional grove that is Awesome Elementary School (although she is, she does and it is). I want to talk, instead, about the philosophy that seems to drive her educational ideas. It’s called Ubuntu.

The dictionary definition of Ubuntu is quite dry, but illuminating: a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity. When Mrs. C translates it into English, it gains a bit of poetic license. “I am who I am because of who we all are.”

“Originally,” she said, “it was a South African philosophy about interconnectedness and community. It became quite popular after apartheid was overturned. I love it. It says we cannot become successful alone, we cannot fail alone, we are all in this together. It also teaches about the acceptance of others and ourselves by seeing us all through a community lens.”

That’s what I love about this. It harkens back to Hilary Clinton’s go-to catchphrase: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s try and leave politics out of this and look at it for what it is; a plea for involvement beyond your own narrow interests.

Sure we parents would like to think we’re the preeminent forces for moral growth in our little dudes and dudettes, but, if we’re being realistic, we need to understand that society has a massive impact on what our children believe and how they act. Which is why we need to act for the greater good, as well as our own good, because the two are very much intertwined.

We’re running a bit long here, so I’ll be back tomorrow with more from Mrs. C and Awesome Elementary School.

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