Career

3 Seemingly Insignificant Things You Can Do to Make Your Time at Work Better

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Joanne Poh

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You’re wearing a suit and tie just like Leo did in Wolf of Wall Street, but each day as you squeeze on the MRT and then try not to stain your shirt with sweat as your run to your Raffles Place office, alarmed that you’ll be late, you couldn’t feel more different.

Complaints about work are the number one conversation topic amongst Singaporeans in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, and that’s not surprising, considering a majority feel that they’re working too much, are stressed out and that their personal lives are being affected by long working hours.

If you’re going to be working in a demanding job, you’re going to need all the help you can get to keep it together during working hours. Here are a few seemingly insignificant things that can make your day at work pass by a lot more pleasantly.

 

Bring your laptop and work away from your desk

Despite the PIC grants the government was offering a while back, many offices are equipped with aging hunks of machinery masquerading as computers that are so laggy they might as well be running on Windows 95. Then there’s the fear that any activities or downloads on your work computer will be policed.

Worst of all, you’re chained to your desk so long as you want to get anything done, and if you have an unfortunate seat in the office with your back facing your boss, be prepared for lots of stress.

If your job doesn’t require the use of specialised software, bringing your laptop to work can change a lot of that. You get to leave your seat and work in the lounge or an empty meeting room, you have your iTunes playlist at your disposal (and games, if you don’t actually have much work) and you also get to work on a machine or system (especially for Mac users) you prefer. Plug in your headphones and you might be able to trick yourself you’re still at home.

 

Treat yourself throughout the day

There’s a reason (other than the nicotine) the smokers in the company are always disappearing at regular intervals to take a puff downstairs. Taking regular breaks throughout the day helps to make time pass faster, rests your tired brain and boosts concentration when you do get back to work.

You might not be a smoker, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some timeout at regular intervals throughout the day.

Sneak off to take a 10 minute walk, bring in some nice tea bags for a real tea break instead of drinking the sludge your company provides, do a few yoga poses in an empty meeting room. No matter how awful the work day is, you’ll survive by looking forward to the next break.

 

Work on actually boosting your career instead of just sitting there

When your job consists of nothing more than clocking in, wishing time would pass faster and then clocking out, you’re about as likely to enjoy it as you are a trip to the dentist.

To give yourself a purpose at work, identify or create a project you’d like to work on. It doesn’t have to be the actual assignments you’ve been given, so long as it helps to boost your career in some way.

For instance, I have a lawyer friend who made it his mission to amass an extensive collection of sample documents which would help him in his work later on. He spend his days trawling through files on the shared drive, saving them onto his thumbdrive and then arranging them. When he finally left the company, he had a goldmine of documents that he continued to refer to for years afterwards.

Now, he didn’t even like the company and wasn’t challenged by the work that he was getting from them, but still managed to find a way to improve himself and something to work on while he was on the job.

One thing Singaporeans can do to better themselves on the job is to get their bosses to sponsor them for work-related courses. This is not to say that there aren’t some bosses who will be stingy enough to say no. But if you just pluck up the courage to ask, you might be surprised. I even have friends who got sent for courses that were only marginally related to their jobs. (Someone I know managed to get her boss to sponsor French lessons because she was working for a Swiss bank.)

You may dislike your job or the projects you’re working on, but remember that there’s a larger work-in-progress here, and that’s your career.

What do you do to improve your time at work? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.