There are now a lot of people associated with microbiology (managers, admin staff, quality managers, clinical microbiologists, even some clinicians) who spend a significant amount of time each day sitting in front of their computer.
Sure we need this office time to facilitate our jobs, but how much is too much time?
I would say that if you have an eight hour working day, you should probably be spending no more than three hours (maximum four) sitting in front of a computer. And with that computer time, be very focused about what you want to achieve.
If you are spending 6-7 hours a day in front of a computer and think that you have no option in this, then you need to speak to your boss/peers. This is not what microbiology is about. Never has been, and never will be.
I doubt if many innovations or revolutionary ideas are dreamt up whilst sitting in front of a computer. Computers are all about making implementation efficient, but it does little for the creative spirit. In fact, it probably dampens it.
Depending on your job, there are lots of other things that you could be doing during the working day other than sitting at your desk. The most important of by a mile is connecting with people. Few, if any strong working relationships are built in front of a computer screen.
I am as guilty of others of spending too much time in the office on occasion. If you find you are spending most of your day in the office, your seat is probably too comfortable….
Are you sitting comfortably, then let’s begin…
- Have you ever seen a job offer for a more senior position but decided not to apply because you felt you would not be up to the position or it would be a step too far?
- Have you ever been to a talk at a departmental, regional or international meeting where you wanted to ask a question, but decided not to for fear of being laughed at or because your question might be perceived as silly?
- Have you ever declined to take on a new role or project because of the extra work and responsibility it would entail?
- Have you ever decided not to do a presentation because you don’t like doing them, it makes you nervous or because the audience are experts in the topic matter?
- Have you ever thought that an area of current laboratory methodology was sub-optimal, but decided not to mention it in case you would be labelled as a troublemaker?
- Have you ever had an idea for a new innovation in the laboratory but decided to keep it quiet as it might receive too much criticism?
I know I have been guilty of at least one of the above….My defence is that I am generally very aware of it when I answer yes to any of the above questions and try hard to do something about it.
The problem with stepping out of our comfort zone is that by moving away from the status quo it involves an element of risk, and risk often leads to stress.
As microbiologists we are generally relatively well qualified people. However our day to day work can be somewhat straightforward and repetitive, and it does not take long to get very comfortable in our jobs, to the extent that it starts to become more and more difficult to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Personally I am not very good at sitting comfortably. Always restless, I prefer to get up, look around and see what risks I can take and what trouble I can cause!
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” T.S. Elliot